Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea

The cast of Manchester by the Sea dressed up for the release of the movie, standing under a title of the movie. It’s impossible to speak of Kenneth Lonergan’s film Manchester by the Sea without alluding to its major premise: Some events in life simply can’t be overcome. However, stating that conclusion does not betray the work’s plot, because from the outset the story depicts a man upon whom a terrible blow has been dealt.

There is no hiding the reality of Lee Chandler’s all but palpable melancholy. Casey Affleck (the much more talented actor of the two Affleck brothers) shows the quiet range of his skills in the glassy-countenanced depiction of a suburban-Boston janitor whose sorrow is wrought into every movement of his mundane life. One doubts that he even feels the cold of the snowy New England winter as he loads a dumpster with trash and brushes off the advances of bored tenants.

So when news comes that Chandler’s older brother has passed away back in his hometown, the loss, though felt, has the effect of another stripe added to the back of a whiplashed mule; the animal winces, but is far too calloused from old, deep injuries to cry out in any audible way. Still, what he finds when he arrives for the funeral is a complication that adds new dimensions to his burdens. [Read more…]

Margaret and the Blight Man Was Born for

Near the end of Kenneth Lonergan’s film, Margaret, a seventeen-year-old girl sits next to her mother in a theater, watching a duet from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.

The voices of two opera singers climb toward each other from opposite sides of the stage—rising in their plaints like two vines, hoping to unite in an arch above. The girl’s attention is rapt, her face straining at the union aspired for.

But then the singers fall back, collapsing in a cascade of defeat. The voices seem to mourn their loss—not only of the other, but also of themselves, as though in this failure to join they have discovered their own transience.

At that moment, the girl in the audience breaks loose in a storm of grief. She grasps for her mother, who grasps for her, and the spectacle all around them rings to a close. [Read more…]