The Oscars were this weekend and all of the movies up for Best Picture are getting a lot of buzz. One of these movies was Manchester By the Sea, a melancholy story centering around around the character Lee, played by Casey Affleck. Lee is given the task of becoming his nephew’s guardian after Lee’s brother dies. I was able to see that movie over Christmas break, and here is what I thought of it.
Manchester by the Sea does a wonderful job of combining beauty with sadness. The cinematography is beautiful and makes you long for a trip to the East Coast. There are picturesque views of the rocky shores and the blue ocean. You get a sense of what it is like to live in this small town. It is quiet and peaceful and people work hard to make a living wage. It is not a film where you feel rushed or in suspense at any time, in this sense it is very calming.
The layout of the movie consists of the present day journey of Lee as he navigates his brother’s death and how to parent his nephew, sewn in are flashbacks to different parts of his life that help to explain the current situation and why it is so painful. The transitions from present to past are quite seamless and never confusing. I never felt impatient to get new information or bored of what was being presented. The story was very well planned out so that you trusted that you would get all the information you wanted.
You go into the movie knowing that his brother dies, so you are prepared for some sadness and you hope for redemption. It does start off sad, not too sad, but definitely somber. As soon you start to realize that there is something more going on, this is really a movie about recovery from a traumatic past event. When the traumatic event is revealed to you, it is completely heartbreaking. This is the sort of sadness you were not prepared for and it will stay with you for the night. Part of the reason it touches you so deeply is because of the extreme realism that the movie displays through the script. The situations and conversations are all so life like that you feel like these are people you actually know.
However, I would like to mention that my perception of the movie changed dramatically after reading about Casey Affleck’s sexual harassment lawsuits. When I heard these stories I brushed them off, as I’m sure many people have, as meaningless accusations. Yet the headlines persisted and the more I looked into it, the more I realised that these were serious charges. Two women told came forward with their stories of being verbally abused and sexually harassed by Affleck while working on a movie set for Affleck’s film I’m Still Here, a flop in every sense of the word. The experiences that women share sound nightmarish and make me cringe at the idea that these things happen all the time and often go unnoticed.
“He allegedly pressured the other woman to stay in his hotel room and ‘violently grabbed [her] arm in an effort to intimidate her into staying’ when she refused, according to the complaint” writes Eliana Dockterman in a TIME magazine article. Affleck has consistently denied the claims, but the results of lawsuits went undisclosed to the public.
This was seven years ago. Of course no one wants to think of Casey Affleck, the less famous and arguably more handsome Affleck brother, as a contributor to the sexism women have to face in the workplace and especially in such a male dominate industry.
It is also too often that these stories get ignored because we don’t want to accept them. It saddens me that a man can act like this and then go on with his career to find success and praise.
For these reasons I hope that the movie does not get any more awards or attention at the Oscars, but instead that someone will stand up and speak against sexism in the workplace that plagues our society today and the importance of preventing it. Yet I’m conflicted because I thought the movie was actually really good. Never have I believed a story more whole heartedly than I have with this one.
I don’t think Affleck should get any more praise for his performance, but if the movie were to win an award – Best Screenplay would be appropriate.