Richly textured and filled with a specificity that feels more … real ( hate using that word to describe art, but here we are) than most tragedies you see projected across your eyes. And this is because writer/director Kenneth Lonergan knows that real life doesn’t follow a generic pattern, that the universe doesn’t stop for your big emotional moment. It will keep spinning around you, it will keep building inconveniences, keep slapping you in the face, keep hurting you – and sometimes that inertia is funny as hell.
Manchester by the Sea had me rolling in the theatre, gasping for air. Because it feels so specific, Lonergan is able to find comedy in the tragedy and vice versa. A scene where Casey Affleck’s nephew (a fantastic, perfectly timed and raw Lucas Hedges) asks him if his girlfriend can stay the night is built upon these silences that get funnier the longer they go on. And later, when Michelle Williams’ character is being placed in an ambulance, this heart-wrenching moment of loss – the EMTs can’t get her into the car, and that mild inconvenience placed on top of the hell the preceded it is all the more painful for how funny it is.
Grief is powerful, but gravity is more powerful. It’s not a thing easily beaten, easily tidied, easily understood. It’s a thing you resist, bit by bit, bar fight by bar fight, sink job by sink job, lunch invitation by – actually, screw that.
Sometimes, lunch is too much, and if that’s not true, I don’t know what is.