MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

by williamldennis

An all in drama that could have risked being syrupy or over dramatic and was tonally perfect.

He’s a janitor who’s responsible for his kids death in a fire then his brother dies which makes him return home to where he lived when the tragedy occurred. It’s dark subject matter that instead of coming across as morbid becomes an exploration of the human experience and emotional survival.

The result is a feeling of survival and triumph of life over grief. Nothing is perfect or notably better in terms of circumstances, but rather the tools for coping with the circumstances are shaper.

That’s the story we’re told and it’s a really good one.

Equal parts touching, sad, and funny – this flick works. The runtime of 2:15 doesn’t feel slow and is necessary to fully capture the emotional arc and growth of the characters.

The cinematographer is gorgeous – restrained in movement, well composed frames, a touch over exposed and over saturated led to gorgeous dreaming-or-not vibes without feeling at all stylized.

The story structure is brilliant also – rather than having us slog through a linear progression of the misery of Lee, we’re given consistent flashbacks to his relationship with his brother and wife and the loss of his kids. It breaks us from the dry events (visiting lawyer and funeral home) while underscoring and heightening the complexity of Lees situation.

Acting was perfect. Cast perfect. They were believable and their words –  and often the pregnant pauses between them – were captivating and entertaining and endearing and realistic. A hard combo.

One of the best edited films I’ve seen. Managing the tone (making it severe without depressing), the humor, the pregnant pauses in conversations, the flashbacks, and the gorgeous scenic insert. It felt methodical and spacious without feeling slow. Brilliant.

Loved this one.

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