While everyone else was out watching Star Wars this weekend, I went for a movie with a little less action. For weeks now I've been reading nothing but good things about Manchester by the Sea. There is nothing that I will be able to convey in this post that will fully describe to you how much of a gut kick this movie is.
By now you likely know the basic premise. Lee's brother dies unexpectedly and he has to go back to his small hometown to handle the arrangements and take guardianship of his sixteen-year-old nephew.
The writer/director gives you a nuanced view of death and family that while attempted in the past by others, has never been fully realized until this movie. It's a hundred other minor details that make the movie though. It's when he goes to see his brother's body and you don't even notice his face because you're watching his hands and how he's struggling to know where to put them. It's simple and nuanced and heartbreaking. It was the trying to put the falling meat back into the freezer and not being able to get the door to shut and then knocking your head on the door. It was leaving the funeral home and forgetting where you parked. It was falling on the ice on the way home from the store (90% certain it was a real fall too). It was all the little things...plus it was real snow in New England, none of the fake stuff.
The world they created was real and heartbreaking. The idea that this could happen to anyone latches on to you and doesn't let go.
It's also a masterful portrayal of depression. From beginning to end, even though we go through Lee's journey of trying to make it through his sadness we are left with the idea that there are some things that will never be OK. Throughout the first half of the movie I found myself wondering why he wasn't reacting more to his brother's passing. When the reveal came, everything fell into place.
Casey Affleck's portrayal of Lee is so perfect that it was hard to remember that you're not watching a real person go through these things. To say that he inhabited his character is an gross understatement of fact. He should win every award possible this year. I can't imagine that there will be a movie that will come close to this one.
Do yourself a favor. Despite the sadness, you should go see this movie. It's been days and it's still with me.