Manchester by the Sea: A Little Underwhelming

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Manchester by the Sea was a film that was surprisingly underwhelming for me. Not bad, but not Oscar nominated levels of good. I dislike hype for movies in general. With the exception of La La Land and Moonlight the movies that have hype rarely reach the high bar that the hype sets. It leaves me underwhelmed at best and thoroughly disappointed at worst.

Nevertheless, Manchester by the Sea is a good movie. The movie title is the setting and Casey Affleck is a young man on the brink of self-destruction (he loves to start punch-ups at bars and works as a janitor in Boston). After his brother’s heart attack, he has to take care of his nephew in Manchester as that was in his brother’s will.

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To anyone wanting to see the movie, this is the scene that finally gives the film momentum.

The Bad Pacing

There is a reason that Affleck hates going back to Manchester. Unfortunately, the reason why is a big fat spoiler. Becuase the endpoint of the movie is whether or not Affleck’s character adheres to his brother’s will. It is not a twist, but it takes about 50 minutes to get to the reason. This is where we get to why I am not a huge fan of Manchester by the Sea.

The pacing is simply too slow. Manchester by the Sea is nearly 140 minutes long. In my opinion, it didn’t need to be. I heard from my favorite living film reviewer Mark Kermode that it needed to be 30 minutes longer due to the lack of the relationship between Affleck and the Michelle William’s character (his ex-wife). I vehemently disagreed.

The High Positives

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Affleck and Hedges have great chemistry. Their chemistry keeps the movie alive.

Despite the slow pacing, Manchester by the Sea does achieve it sets out to do. That is, to tell a story about a damaged man while not being overly morose. This is done with Affleck’s nephew (played by Lucas Hedges) serving as great comic relief while being a relatable teenager. Aside from Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges was the best thing in the movie.

Great Scriptwriting

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The script was also well-written. That is hard to come by in movies because well-written dialogue has to simultaneously poetic and natural. It’s a well-hidden art that you don’t immediately observe because the art is to make dialogue sound like normal people talking.

In terms of dialogue, most movies either have the rhythm or the music but never both. Those are what most 2-3 star movies have in common. Manchester by the Sea is an exception. I still believe that Hacksaw Ridge has the best use of dialogue out of all the movies I have reviewed, but Manchester by the Sea would be in the top ten for scriptwriting.

I saw a good film in Manchester by The Sea, but with the slow pacing and the long-running time, I couldn’t get myself into it. It was the kind of film that I was wishing I could immerse myself into because it had the right elements, but I never could. That is why I was underwhelmed by the whole movie ***1/4

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