This is the one. This is the movie every critic has been gushing about. There is always that one movie every year that is expected to dominate the award show season and this is it. I’ve been reading the critics reviews and it’s all the same story. “Breathtaking”, “Magnificent”, “Painful & tragic”, “A triumph”, “A film of surpassing beauty and heart”…. it has the most Golden Globe nominations of any movie this year and is expected to keep going on its way to sweeping the Oscars.
Metacritic score: 96, Rotten Tomatoes: 97, IMDB- 8.5
I walked into that theater fully expecting to be blown away by a story of sadness and pain and to feel so much emotion that when it was over I’d be compelled to stand and applaud.
Well that’s not how it went. I sat there and watched an extremely well done movie about one mans horribly sad life. There was some heavy shit to be dealt with and Casey Affleck delivered a spectacular performance. He should be drowning in little golden trophies for the billions of random award shows. As for the movie itself I find it hard to rave about because it was so god damn depressing. It wasn’t a sad movie, it was a depressing one… there’s a difference. It was the type of movie you walk away from silently in a funk. But that’s not to say I didn’t think it was good, because it definitely was. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a somber and thoughtful movie which would make this one perfect. So instead of getting up from my seat and giving a standing ovation during the credits, I walked back to my car feeling like this:
Critically it was strong. The characters were carefully and gradually developed throughout the story to give the audience a very specific perspective. Imagine looking at a huge painting in a museum from 2 inches away and walking backwards very slowly. It takes a while to figure out what you’re looking at but then there’s that moment when you finally see it…and it hits you like “damn… there it is”. In this case that small, almost meaningless part you started with 2 inches from your face is the most important piece because it ties the whole thing together.
Entertainment rating: 60%
Critic rating: 93%
SPOILERS: It’s taken me a couple days to fully digest this movie. Originally I was upset with how it ended because I felt it didn’t really even have an ending. It just kind of stopped and they went on with their lives in different directions. Almost like the father’s will didn’t even matter and the past few months were pointless. But the more I thought about it the more I came to terms with the fact that it was the right way to end it. Lee Chandler couldn’t live in Manchester.. his life was literally destroyed there and most the town believes he killed his kids. I think the ex-wife may have spread the word that he was drunk and lit the house on fire- which we know is a gross over simplification of what actually happened. Now Lee lives and works in Boston alone with absolutely no desire to meet anyone. He works as a handyman and custodian in apartment complexes …. weird huh? The first 15 minutes of the movie shows an average day of work for him where he shovels snow, unclog shitty toilets, fixes plumbing, and even does electrical work. It’s almost like he’s created his own little place in the world to punish himself for whats happened to his children. His job is to fix things for other people and maintain their homes. He has no interest in making a better life for himself because he feels he doesn’t deserve it.
Patrick Chandler on the other hand is a wildly different case. He’s 16 and is very confident whatever he’s doing is right no matter what the consequences are to other people. He’s a selfish and arrogant little asshole. Maybe that was just his way of dealing with his father’s death. It was going great until he had a meltdown over frozen chicken. (top 10 funniest non-funny scenes ever) He’s a star athlete, incredibly popular, and more importantly his whole life has been in Manchester and leaving would be like letting go of his father’s memory. This is why he fights so hard to keep his father’s boat and replace the motor.. He never wants to leave.
So now we have one who can’t stay, and the other who can’t leave. Both have very valid reasons for their positions and neither is willing to compromise. These two guys are the only family each other has left and they’re complete opposites. They were really close before the fire tragedy but even though Lee drifted away it’s clear they still care about each other a lot. I was struggling with the ending because of this dynamic. There was no right answer, but I thought there should at least be a definitive one. Instead of them simply parting ways and keeping in touch. I’ll admit I was wrong. I was just being a selfish audience member who wanted a nice resolution with a bow on it.
But the answer was right there all along. In fact, it was in the very first scene; the flashback to the boat with Lee, Patrick, and his father. Lee is talking to Patrick and trying to get the kid to admit that he is better than his father. Something like “If you were stranded on an island and you can only have one person with you, would you take your Uncle Lee who knows everything, is wicked smart, and can do anything, or would you take your father who can’t” and Patrick responds immediately in favor of his father. That’s a little thing they call “foreshadowing”. (big time critic analysis right here… be proud) It didn’t matter if his father was dead and gone, or that his Uncle was his legal guardian and only reasonable family member left to care for him. Patrick picks his father’s will which keeps him in Manchester. No questions and no compromise. It sucks Lee can’t be there with him, but he’s a broken man and wouldn’t be much help anyways even though he wants to do right by his brother and Patrick.
The truth is they’ll always be there for each other, just not within an hour and a half. That’s some real life shit.