This movie has been very well received and is nominated for eight Oscars, five of which are technical for design, sound, editing etc. The three big ones are Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Okay… all that said I am very nervous to write this review. I did not like this movie. It I like Close Encounters of the Third Kind in terms of the message but is not nearly close to being as good. I think some critics like it because it is not Alien or other thriller type Sci-Fi. It has pretensions of being cerebral but it was boring, contrived, and the ending was just stupid and really disappointing. Amy Adams is the lead and her performance has been praised but thank God the Academy had enough sense not to nominate her for Best Actress because while good, she is not amazing and the role is dumb like the movie. Villeneuve is Canadian and I have liked and disliked his films. Sicario is very good but Prisoners was really disappointing. Incendies which made his career was okay. He is working on a sequel of Blade Runner, not a remake but a story set 30 or 40 years in the future from the original. It will star Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. I am worried because Blade Runner was awesome but this?… I am not sure this is wise.
This film is all about Denzel Washington. He produced, directed and acted the lead role. He managed to capture three Oscar nominations: Himself as Best Actor, his co-star Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress and for August Wilson for the screenplay based on his Broadway play of the same name. Wilson passed away in 2005 and I have to assume the script for the film is very close to the original. Both actors performed the same roles in a Broadway revival a few years ago earning Tony awards for their portrayals. The movie covers a few months in the lives of a black family in Pittsburgh in 1957 and, like Manchester by the Sea, is difficult to watch as the family self destructs around the actions of Washington’s character who plays the father but comes together again at the end by the strength of the mother. Her soliloquy at the end of the film as she confronts her son’s anger reminded me in power at least of Linda Loman at the end of Death of a Salesman. The knock on the film has been that it fails to adequately transform the story from the stage to the screen but this is picky. The performances are all very good and while I do not expect them to win Oscars to put beside the Tony awards, they are compelling. I hesitate to recommend films like this because it is not escapist entertainment but will leave you thinking and if you are up for that kind of entertainment don’t hesitate to have a look.
This is maybe the best movie I have seen in a very long time. My favourite movie of all time is Lawrence of Arabia which is something I can watch over and over again but while Manchester-by-the-Sea is now up there with my top 10 I will not. It is far too powerful and draws you in very personally. I went to see this with a full house at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Very briefly it is the story of a man played by Casey Affleck who is a handyman for a sort of marginal landlord in Boston when we meet him. He has a brother who is a single dad and a nephew in the picturesque town of Manchester. As the film opens he receives news that his brother has passed away and there is a will and the 16-year-old nephew needs support. Among the challenges left by his brother is the request for Casey Affleck to be his nephew’s guardian. Already it is complicated but as the film unwinds it becomes even more and more complex. The story is totally engaging and so real that I think the audience all find someone to identify with and enter into their emotional struggles. The film does not end sadly or unresolved but rather you know the characters will all carry on but you have had a chance to gain a glimpse into them and their lives deeply and personally. Lonergan uses both humour and pathos to make his story come alive. It is this that leaves the audience sitting quietly and reflectively. I won’t say any more or the film would be spoiled. Enough to say that at my viewing, when the final credits ran, literally no one in the audience moved or said anything for what seemed like several minutes. We were all just stunned by the power of the film, the acting and the story. Casey Affleck turns in a performance that must win him an Oscar. He has already won several best actor awards for this role including a Golden Globe and is nominated for a BAFTA award as well. Having seen all the other contenders, I would be amazed if he does not win the Oscar. I recommend this film without reservation and just note that you will not be entertained so much as enter a complex and deeply emotional world that will not devastate but nonetheless will draw out a strong emotional response. Be prepared. Kleenex for some is recommended.