Illustration by Anna Seibæk Torp-Pedersen
I rarely like to watch films that don't promise to have me gasping for air with laughter, or that don't induce a wrinkled frown of intrigue (the only time my eyebrows ever unite) but ‘Manchester by The Sea’ stood out for its unapologetic starkness. I went with mum (we all do it, it means a free meal and overpriced cinema ticket), whose main reasoning for seeing the film was the protagonist, being the brother of universal heart-throb hunk Ben Affleck. I won't deny that was also a good reason enough for me. And so, we sat, and were met with otherworldly scenes - indicative of its Oscar nomination for best picture- depicting glorious snow-capped mountains surrounding the plot in America's Manchester that was purposely not sugar coated (I thought I'd be seeing a film based in our Manchester... a little upset the curry mile never featured).
The plot develops in flashbacks. These little nuggets of much-needed explanation for the stoic and deadpan character of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) from the opening scene stand as impressive proof of the now Oscar nominated actor's ability, and explain how Lee had ended up as a janitor in Quincy, a Boston suburb. The stark surroundings that welcome him to his hometown of Manchester upon his return following his brother’s death are contrasted by drama and pathos, and we feel as if we too had suffered the heart numbing catastrophes Lee had. He is not exactly leaping over the moon with joy at the news that he has to become the legal guardian of his brother’s son and nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a fact that he feels is a lethal puncture to the (figurative) tyre of his meagre existence. Seemingly mundane scenes of his everyday life as a handyman -fixing the shower of Mrs so-and-so from apartment 5 for example- serve to reinforce his utter withdrawal from the human world, and his insistence on emotional disengagement and solidarity; living away from the traces of his past traumas. This tremendously emotional tragicomedy left me wanting to find an Oscar myself to give to Casey Affleck. His compelling performance leaves you, well, downright compelled (and then some). Go see the film, and for god's sake bring a tissue, you'll need it.