venerdì 21 ottobre 2016

Manchester by the sea

I spent just a couple of days at the Rome Film Fest, but I’ve been lucky enough to see one of the most beautiful movies of 2016. A gem called Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by American film-maker Kenneth Lonergan.
This NY born director is better known for his work as screen player (he co-wrote Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese, to name just one thing) but he already directed three movies. I was a huge fan of his first feature, You can count on me (2000), which revealed the talent of two actors who had incredible careers afterwards: Mark Ruffalo and Laure Linney, and I followed the troubled story of his second movie, Margaret: originally scheduled for release in 2007, it was repeatedly delayed while Lonergan struggled to create a final cut he was satisfied with, resulting in multiple lawsuits against the studio that produced it! In the end, the movie was released in a 150-minute version in 2011 and Lonergan eventually completed a three-hour extended version which was ready on DVD in 2012! What a story… 
But let’s go back to Manchester by the Sea: Lee Chandler lives in Boston, alone, working as a handyman in different buildings. One day, he received a phone call: his older brother Joe, who suffered from a heart disease, died while on his fishing boat. Lee is obliged to go back to his home town, Manchester by the Sea. He is not happy about it, because something awful happened there years ago. Something Lee can’t forget, something he’s trying to escape from, but his brother’s death and the fact that he has been nominated tutor of Joe’s only son, Patrick (17 years old), don’t leave him any choice. 
He has to go back to Manchester and face his past.
One of the most difficult things to express in movies are emotions. 
I mean, in a credible, non-cheesy way. The moment you deal with families, death and sorrow, the risk of ending up doing something tearful and pathetic is really high. But miracles are possible, and this movie proves it.
Thanks to a magnificent structure, a beautifully crafted screenplay and a stunning performance by the actors, Manchester by the Sea reaches a level of complexity, deepness and empathy rarely seen on screens this year.
The first great idea of the movie is the structure, as I just said, and the way the director has used the insertion of flash-backs. In fact, he didn’t even insert them. They are what the movie is made of, with an intense fluidity between the past and the present. It is a different and more sophisticated way to get to know the characters. It is surprisingly emotional and particularly convincing. 

But here, by far, the most convincing thing of all is the actors’ performances, and especially the one of Casey Affleck.
He is so permeated with despair that every unnecessary gesture or word looks like a burden to him. He is transpiring sadness, and there are a couple of scenes where this is so strong that it is almost unbearable. Frankly speaking, I think we are in front of this year’s most amazing male performance.
I have been haunted since the day I saw the movie by this incredible, magnificent scene played by him and Michelle Williams. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I have to prevent you, this is the most devastating scene I've seen at the movies in a very long time:

I don't know when Manchester by the Sea is going to be out neither in France nor in Italy, but - of course - my strong suggestion is to run to see it.
Be ready: Zazie d'Or will be raining on this movie like the frogs in Magnolia.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - Trailer from Mill Valley Film Festival on Vimeo.

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