I love the concept of "Manchester by the Sea." The first half of the film creates a multidimensional story carried by Casey Affleck's emotionally detached character and the mystery behind his disposition. There are an endless number of directions for this film to move after this incredible setup. A paternal bond, an opportunity to make amends for past mistakes, a rekindled romance, facing the demons from your past, starting a new life, a transformation of character, a complete mental breakdown... This film could have chosen any theme that it wanted and instead, it chose none of them. From the time that the mystery is revealed, nothing happens. As I reflect on this film, I find it a struggle to spot the amazing characteristics that earned its critical acclaim. Michelle Williams has one amazing emotional scene that I do agree is worthy of a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Lucas Hedges shows potential during the freezer scene but it ends before he reaches the emotional level that l expect for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Affleck is the front runner for the Best Actor Oscar but without some sort of transformation (for better or for worse), his performance is (intentionally) unemotional. As much as I loved the unfolding of the story for the first hour, I have some issues with the script. There is my obvious frustration with the missed potential to make a strong movement in literally any direction; however, I was equally frustrated by the amount of unnecessary language. I understand the realism that it is trying to establish but the film could have made a great PG-13 movie and had the same effect without dozens of f-words. The script cleverly reveals information and draws parallels to the past through flashbacks but I don't find it worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. There are also issues with the pacing as it just seems to plot along without much purpose. This film does a good job of capturing the New England rough around the edges atmosphere through its cinematography and mastery of the accent by the entire cast. It also capitalizes on the film trend of examining real life situations with raw acting and simple scenes of dialogue. "Manchester by the Sea" isn't a bad film but I expected a lot more out of a film with six Oscar nominations and a lot of hype surrounding it. It has left an imprint on the present but will likely be forgotten within the next few years.
[Pictured: This scene with Michelle Williams is incredible but I found the rest of the film to be uninspired as it drags along]