One movie. I skipped out on only ONE movie for The Academy nominations, and it just so happened to be the one that won the award for Best Actor. So I decided I would get it out of the way and watch the dang thing.
So now that I’ve finished watching it, I can firmly say that it’s a great movie. Did Casey Affleck deserve the Best Actor Award? Yes. The only person that came close to being better than Affleck was Denzel Washington in Fences, but I personally think Affleck did the best.
Am I upset that Manchester by the Sea didn’t win Best Picture?
Let me put it this way: I think Manchester by the Sea deserved it about as much as I thought Moonlight did.
This is essentially Casey Affleck‘s movie. His performance was absolutely phenomenal and deeply layered. He demonstrated so many different types of subtle emotions in this film. Granted, most of the emotions fell under the realm of “sadness”, but there were many occurrences in the film where I was impressed with just how deep that sadness was.
Almost everyone else does really well in the film. No one comes close to the level of Affleck’s, but the vast majority of performances are where they needed to be.
Unfortunately, there was one person in particular that was extremely inconsistent with how great his acting was. If only he was a smaller part of this movie, then it wouldn’t have been such a letdown.
The only other character that gets as much screen time as Casey Affleck was this guy: Lucas Hedges, and the quality of his performance was all over the place. There were times where I thought his performance was actually impressive, and there were other times where I was getting fed up with how bad he was at controlling his facial expressions.
Now, Hedges’s character is young and aloof, so I almost want to excuse this lack of facial control as being a part of the character and not actually a flaw. However, it’s impossible for me to go all the way with this because he is constantly in the same shots as Affleck, whose performance was almost completely flawless. If they chose a kid who could consistently draw out a compelling performance, then this movie would have likely bumped up two points on my grading system.
In fact, I’m a little shocked that the kid even got nominated for best supporting actor…
There is an inescapable feeling of distance in this movie. The soundtrack and camera work frequently complimented Affleck’s character’s complete and utter shutdown amongst the people around him.
That being said, there were multiple times where I felt like the soundtrack was either overly loud or a considerable distraction from what I was trying to pay attention to. Similarly, some of the shots and scenes felt like they had no relevant connection to the story as a whole and almost felt like they were in there solely for artistic reasons rather than to compliment the story.
I’m open to arguments saying that these were part of the movie trying to make you feel more disconnected to the events around you, and therefore make you sympathize more with Affleck’s character, but unless these arguments are well-thought out, I would ultimately disagree. Plenty of the shots and music do effectively draw you in and appreciate the tone of the movie, but there were many that still felt unnecessary.
The Story itself was fine. It was delivered in a way where the right information was delivered at the right time. If the story attempted to explore any sort of more positive emotions, cathartic or redemptive, than it did, then I would imagine this film would have been a lot more memorable. As it stands, it seems like it is primarily an exercise in constant sadness.
With all that said, most of my complaints about the movie do not prevent Manchester by the Sea from being a good movie; most of my complaints prevent me from giving it a grade of exceptionality. The truth is that this film does do a great job at exploring the depths of human brokenness, it showcases one of Casey Affleck’s best performances, and there is an obvious attention to detail throughout most of the movie.
If the film focused up more, gave more catharsis, and recasted Lucas Hedges with a kid that was as good at portraying emotion as Affleck, this may have been a perfect film. As it stands, I would say that it is still a good film that is worth at least one watch.