Manchester by the Sea ★★★★

I can't beat it. I can't beat it.

Ten months ago now I went to Sundance. When I went, I had passes to five movies: The Birth of a Nation, Weiner-Dog, Sand-storm, Sophie and the Rising Sun, and Manchester by the Sea. However, my flight time ended up being too close to my screening time for Manchester. So, for the last ten months, I've listened to the glowing and stewed in frustration.

And, for the most part, Lonergan's mournful tragedy delivers. There's an appropriate sense of withdrawal. As Affleck's character takes on the ensuing responsibilities of his brother's passing, previous tragedies are intercut gracefully and efficiently. All of this grief is wonderfully reflected in the precise dialogue. No one says more than they need to. And, even better, there aren't the typically obvious Oscar lines that beg to be excised for a flashy clip - though Affleck will certainly be high in the running. It's all beautifully and appropriately subdued.

However, this brings me to my main problem with the film. For most of the running time, Manchester is scored with graceful and operatic music. It certainly evokes longing and emptiness, but I couldn't help but feel that it was particularly gaudy in the face of all the restrained performances. The music often jarred me out of the experience, not so much that the mood felt spoiled, but just enough that I noticed it every time it popped up. Similarly, (and this may be particular to my screening) but there was one odd casting that felt a bit jarring too.

Regardless, Manchester by the Sea was well worth the wait. It is precise in its messiness and skillfully restrained. I give it a 4/5.

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