Sunday, December 4, 2016

Manchester by the Sea [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (4 Stars)  AVClub (A)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Manchester by the Sea [2016] (written / directed by Kenneth Lonergan) is a generally well-written and certainly well-acted indie piece about a contemporary New England family that had suffered multiple tragedies that certainly deserves Oscar consideration for several awards including (certainly) for best actor and (possibly) for best direction.

Yet it is by no means a perfect film and (yes) its MORAL failings make it hard to recommend as anything but a REALLY SAD (yes, honestly, BRING THE KLEENEX) if also LOVELY "blue collar art piece."

What am I talking about?  Well, the film's about a late-30 something thoroughly guilt-ridden / shell of a man, Lee Chandler (played wonderfully, honestly to Oscar nomination levels by Casey Affleck), who's nonetheless given custody of his brother Joe's son 16 year-old son Patrick (played again generally quite excellently by Lucas Ledges) after Joe (played by Kyle Chandler) dies of a sudden heart-attack. 

Why wouldn't Patrick's mother automatically get custody of Patrick?  Indeed, why didn't she have custody of Patrick to begin with?  Well she was an almost lost-cause alcoholic.  She comes into the picture (briefly) in the latter part of the story as a _sincerely_ if also quite desperately "Born Again Christian" (the Chandlers being generally if not particularly deeply devoted Catholics) trying, well, _sincerely_ to regain control over her life (Honestly, you just want to cry for her ...).

Why then would Lee be such a mess?  Well, HE was coping with (or really _still_ shell shocked from) a family tragedy that HE was at least _partly_ if perhaps _not wholly_ responsible for.  And, well, his now late-brother seemed to have more confidence in him than he had in himself.  (Again, you just want to cry for him / both as well ...).

Finally, if not surrounded by such awful tragedy, Patrick, a rambunctious and popular hockey-playing (this is blue-collar Massachusetts after all ...) sixteen year old would be a generally happy high schooler.  But of course, his dad died of a heart-attack early in the story and his mother was, well, "somewhere / away" for most of the story, presumably "in treatment."  (You want to cry for him as well ...)

So where could one find moral fault in such a sad story?

Well ... the parenting presented in this film was really quite awful.  Yes, 16-year-old Patrick had a rough life.  Presumably the various girls his age around him had similarly rough lives as well.  Still, I REALLY DID FIND IT SHOCKING (and honestly _unrealistic_) THAT THE PARENTS IN THIS FILM WOULD BASICALLY "BE COOL WITH" and EVEN _HELP_ THEIR DAUGHTERS SLEEP WITH THIS GUY. 

I just don't believe that to be credible.  Yes, Patrick was young, attractive and _sad_.  But I just can't imagine a mother of a teenager his age "being cool with" _her daughter_ sleeping with him as a result.  It just doesn't compute for me.  AND I DON'T THINK IT'S A GOOD EXAMPLE TO PARENTS WATCHING THIS FILM, let alone to their teens.

As such, while a SAD and often BEAUTIFUL MOVIE ... I honestly CAN'T RECOMMEND IT as anything more than "an unrealistic art piece" AND I WOULD HOPE THAT PARENTS would NOT "pimp" their daughters out like the various parents did in this film.

Yes, Patrick's life was "hard," but NOT THAT "hard" to "deserve" such "assistance" ...

Two Stars ...


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