Saturday, December 3, 2016

Manchester by the Sea: Monday, November 28 2016

Manchester by the Sea, directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, is an American drama (2016). It has received high praise from the critics, and is, indeed, a beautifully crafted film. It will be surprising if it doesn't feature prominently in the Oscars.

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, plays the part perfectly. Lonergan brings out the best in each of the actors, and the film seems like a piece out of real life. Michelle Williams, as Randi, Lee's ex-wife, is amazing. She and Affleck play off each other in what must be one of the most moving scenes in any film. Randi is telling Lee that she has forgiven him, and needs his forgiveness for what she now sees as dreadful things she once said to him. She is incredible, and brings many people in the audience to tears. Randi has matured, and moved on with her life. This so contrasts with Lee, who can't forgive her because he can't forgive himself, it is pathetic, in the full sense of that word.

The problem for an audience of laypeople, who only want to be entertained, is that Manchester by the Sea is often boring, as my friend, Maureen commented. Real life isn't really too interesting as entertainment, and in this case, the story of a loser, a wastrel who can't accept responsibility, isn't really too much fun. In fact, I found that the emotions aroused in me were not the ones that the director had hoped I would feel. Lee Chandler had certainly not been brought up to come to terms with the past and forgive it, and get on with life. Instead, he is wallowing in it. Tragic figures, I've come to realise, evoke impatience in me, and a feeling of wanting to shake some sense into them. Everyone has bad experiences in life. We all have to mature, and learn how to close the door with acceptance. We learn how to move on and get on with life. My friend, Loretta, found this film the most depressing she has ever seen. I gathered from her that she wasn't entertained either.

As my friend, Brian, said, when story-telling is taught, the hero is meant to grow, evolve, and learn something from any traumatic experience. This brings a sense of satisfaction for the audience. In the case of Lee Chandler, he seemed to be incapable of changing. He is a dark, brooding, pitiful figure, slinking off into the dark night of an unfulfilled, dreary, unchanging, alcohol-filled life. No suggestion that Lee Chandler might recognize he is mentally ill, and ought to be consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist to help him regain a proper balance in his outlook on life.  No wonder Loretta was so saddened. There is no hope.

This raised more questions in my mind. What is entertainment? Is it's purpose to show off the abilities of the director, cast, and other experts who are involved in the creation? Is it wise to introduce the average layperson to a new concept of the leading person in a story? Is real life so fascinating that it is pleasing to have it played out in front of us? Is an immature person, crippled by his life experiences, a happy choice as hero?

I guess the box office will make the final judgement. Neither I, nor any of my friends, would advise anyone to see Manchester by the Sea. Not, that is, unless they want to be bored or depressed. Word of mouth advertising won't be working positively in this case.

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