We saw the movie 'Manchester by the Sea' on Christmas Day. I've been meaning to write about it since then but.... I'm having a hard time putting it into words. So I'll try...
It's a movie I'd wanted to see only because I heard it was good, and it stars Casey Affleck. Otherwise I didn't know anything about it. I had no idea it would be as emotionally gut-wrenching as it was, nor as impactful.
I don't want to give anything away about the movie, and I can't say whether it's good or not - I don't know - so I will just put the storyline from google here in case you're not familiar:
Lee Chandler is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His brother's heart has given out suddenly, and he's been named guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren't enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy.I suppose I related to Affleck's character right from the start just from the three words above: "brooding, irritable loner." Yeah, unfortunately that's a pretty good description of yours truly. I don't want to be, I guess it's just how it is. So right away I felt a distinct connection and I was glued to my seat.
If anything I would say this movie is about grief. It's not about how to work through it, or what you should or shouldn't do, or anything like that though. In fact, I heard several people grumbling at the end of the movie because nothing is ever resolved. Rather, it's a simple character study of a person who is deeply grieving. It knew me.
There were two scenes in particular that nearly caved my chest. The first is actually a couple different meetings between the main character and his ex-wife. The way she KNOWS him, and knows his pain. I can't really even say anything more about it, but it was powerful.
The second, and biggest scene in the whole movie (imho), is when the main character finally confesses, "I can't beat it! I can't beat it! I'm sorry." That summed it all up for me. It's that point of knowing you've fucked up. Not even that... Knowing you ARE a fuck up... and you can't help it. It's being stuck in one of the five stages of grief, knowing it and not being able to do anything about it. The powerlessness. The hopelessness. The resignation.
On the way home I tried to explain how I felt to Jane (I never do a very good job of this). I told her how "I can't beat it" resonated with me, but I wasn't sure what it was that I couldn't beat. After thinking about it a few days, I think it's just the simple feeling of worthlessness. Certainly I have never experienced anything close to what the character in this movie did, but sometimes I feel like my heart has been broken beyond repair. Not from any one event, but a lifetime of little things. I know that's not true, and I've actually had a pretty good and easy life, but I can't seem to shake the feeling. I find myself not enjoying or caring about anything; unable to make small-talk; calloused and cold to any attempts to help; kind of just... blank.
I'm sure a good counselor would help. To be honest, though, I'm just not interested. And it's not something I feel on a constant basis. But I did relate very strongly to this movie. The good part is, it makes me feel like there actually IS somebody out there who understands me. Plus the fact that there's a character, at least, who is worse at small-talk than I am. :)
So, the reality is, this movie wasn't a downer for me. Yes, it is disturbing. Yes, it wrenched my heart pretty good. I was choked up through most of it. Ultimately, though, it makes me feel not quite so alone. And that's a good thing, if not a big thing. I still won't recommend it - because what do I know about movies or people - but I will say that I really liked it.