Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Manchester by the Sea


Casey Affleck is a janitor in Boston when he learns that his brother has died of heart failure. It’s not a surprise because they knew he had a bad heart, and he takes it reasonably well. In Manchester he learns that his brother has left him in charge of his modest estate, and the guardianship of his 15-year-old son. This is all news to him, and he wants no part of it. It’s clear that he has a past he doesn’t like to think about, and he has a certain notoriety in town. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that because he carelessly left a screen off the fireplace, his house burned down, killing his three young children. He has shut himself off, though he is apt to explode in bar fights now and then. It is very bleak. Don’t expect a happy ending, though what we get is probably about the best one we could expect in the circumstances.

I have to insert a disclaimer here: I might have liked this better if I was feeling better at the time. Lee liked it, so maybe I was just grumpy. I don’t avoid depressing movies, nor small dramas where not a lot happens. Everyone else sure seemed to like it. On another night I might have, as well. But I do have to protest that, at 137 minutes, it is at least twenty minutes too long.

Certain films released at the end of the year are clearly Oscar bait. As I write this the Oscars are a little over twenty-four hours away. This movie is up for six of them, including almost all the major ones, and I don’t think it deserves them. Best Actor, maybe, though I wasn’t really all that taken with him. Best Picture? No. As for the rest, there is a sort of piling-on thing that happens. La La Land, which I haven’t seen but fully expect to love, has a ridiculous twelve nominations. Really? Best Sound Editing? I’ll bet there were other films more deserving of that one. When a film is lauded for one thing, the Academy always seems to add in three or four of the technical categories. I don’t think Manchester by the Sea is worthy of all those acting nominations, particularly the supporting ones. But that’s the Oscars for you.