Manchester By The Sea: a film review

I had a choice; this movie or La La Land. Now, because of some over active cultural snobbery I took a quick glance at the blurb for Manchester, realised it wasn’t set in the North of England but Massachusetts (so I wouldn’t need subtitles), understood it was ‘thoughtful’ and ‘made you think’ (which should be the same thing but of course isn’t) and plumped for Manchester rather than the feel-good, light up your day bit of fluff that is La La Land.

Will I ever learn? I saw my firm Pinter play – the Birthday Party – on the Beeb in the 1970s. Pinter was much derided by dad and fought over by mum, who didn’t necessarily enjoy his work but felt she should and so kept on trying.  What wound up the old man was what he saw as Pinter’s pretensions in making a big thing of distinguishing between the hesitation, the pause and a silence – and especially his two sorts of silence, that where there is an absence of speech and that where there is a torrent but it is masking the true silence beneath the words.

Dad’s sneering popped into my head as I fidgeted through yet another Casey Affleck hesitation cum pause cum silence. In his desperation to avoid communicating Affleck’s character reverts so far into his shell he might as well be an unborn embryo chick.

The film unfolds slowly, like an anaconda after a particularly large dinner, keeping the essential truth behind Affleck’s steel hard carapace hidden for a significant part of the movie. This is, I believe, intended to be a ‘good thing’. Hmm. It rather felt like joining a queue at the post office and realising, too late, that the man in front of you is sending Cornwall to his relatives in Switzerland one rock at a time.

The acting is fine, probably somewhere on the Oscar spectrum. The camera work was perfectly lovely and it didn’t inspire me to add this Manchester to my must visit list anymore than I would add the one on the north west coast when it is full of United and City fans – if the cameraman intended a travelogue he failed rather – it worked to portray tortured humanity and turmoil in all its grisely blotched complexion and furrowed brows.

There was a nice byplay between Alleck and his nephew to whom he becomes guardian and those moments were worth waiting for. But for the rest…?

In truth, it was all a bit meah. It dragged. I discovered an itch I’d lost last week, lurking four inches above my right buttock; once again I despaired at the stupidity of cinemas who sell industrial-sized boxes of pop-shite and the morons who eat it during the movie; I turned my phone on and off three times, once checking twitter and the other two times checking I’d turned it off only to turn it on again in the process.

And then, like being told  by the dentist that it was all over and feeling oddly cheated that there hadn’t been any discomfort because you were still numb, the film finished.

I can always tell when a movie had failed me; I have had no urge whatsoever to fall asleep.

I should have done the fluff. If you want something that is the cinematic equivalent of a set of Ikea instructions this is for you.

The ice cream was nice, though.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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61 Responses to Manchester By The Sea: a film review

  1. Ritu says:

    Now La La Land
    .. that I want to see!
    We are going to see Sing! Tomorrow with the kids though!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kirstwrites says:

    La la land proved a good antidote to a dull day in January for me earlier this week. Nice to look at and listen to. Not too taxing. Although the 12yo who accompanied me said she preferred more realistic films… “Like Moana”!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Al Lane says:

    I’m hoping to see this on a film poster soon: “I can always tell when a movie had failed me; I have had no urge whatsoever to fall asleep.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mary Smith says:

    Think I’ll give it a miss.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    We went to see Hidden Figures instead. Thanks for an HONEST review. Hollywood – and all of its self congratulatory awards shows – is telling us this is the best movie since Gone With the Wind!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry about your itch ! Sending “one rock at a time”…great description. 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Saw Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone, now there was a depressing (and close to the mark with Madeline McCann) movie. Although I didn’t have a choice and there was no ice cream break, I’m glad I went to see La La Land. Think I’ll give this one a miss, even if it’s on the cheapie shelf later in the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wordwool says:

    Oh dear! Still, not wasted – you’ve come up with a good plan for Cornwall…..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jan says:

    Though you didn’t like the film, your review was delightful reading. I was born in one of those grim Massachusetts’ towns and so hadn’t too much desire to see the movie in the first place. I’m not a Pinter fan either – though as an English major I have tried (perhaps too hard)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Too bad about the movie. Better luck next time. I can’t speak for either film. Haven’t been to the movies in ages. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful review Geoff, I read a blurb somewhere and thought it was a British film of the grey and depressing ilk that seems to pop up now and again, but also wondered if I might be wrong and it would be one of those wonderfully grey and depressing yet ultimately uplifting films …… And I also wondered why the Brits were casting Casey Affleck (maybe to atone for all the Brits and associated commonwealth folk who are landing good roles in Hollywood I answered myself) …… So now I know and can happily keep it crossed off my list. I’m not dreadfully sure about La La Land either to tell the truth. Like your mother, I tried with Harold Pinter, but like your father, almost as quickly gave up! Psoriasis – really?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Susanne says:

    Well. I’m glad you saw the film because the review was a hoot!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Charli Mills says:

    Next time see the musical fluff! Best review quote of Casey Afflek ever: “Dad’s sneering popped into my head as I fidgeted through yet another Casey Affleck hesitation cum pause cum silence. In his desperation to avoid communicating Affleck’s character reverts so far into his shell he might as well be an unborn embryo chick.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a great review. I must admit to also being underwhelmed. I kept waiting for something original to happen, something unexpected, but the narrative arc was visible within the first quarter and even Affleck’s brilliant acting and fabulous cinematography did not lift the story beyond cliches. Now as for La La Land, you made the wrong call my friend. You are welcome to check out both my reviews just for fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My rule of thumb these days: never ever go and see something because you think it’s worthy. Same goes for books.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Annika Perry says:

    Geoff, this has to be the best film review I’ve ever read! 😀😀 Sorry the film was a flop for you, for us you’ve given a treat! Well, Ikea usually ends in disaster and nuclear sized arguments and depression so think I’ll give this a miss. Glad you liked the ice cream though! We were due to see the fluff film but alas son’s sleepover night was cancelled…no doubt we’ll end up seeing it on Tv in due course!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Just as well I don’t go the cinema anymore. I tend to wait for it to come onto the TV. Still haven’t seen the last Star Wars or Jurassic Park movies. At least at home, I can fall asleep without getting overpriced popcorn thrown at me. 😀


  18. Eileen says:

    You are going to be the cause of my neighbors avoiding crossing paths with me. You never fail to make me lose it laughing helplessly here alone. I love sending Cornwall to Switzerland one rock at a time. And the IKEA bit. Your mind is a treasure trove……………………

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I am glad you think so Eileen. I think having labrador in the genes helps see the best and most absurd things as well as allowing me to wag my tail a lot.


  19. No explosions, car chases or gratuitous violence then? I’ll go and see XXX 3 instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. says:

    I really liked Manchester by the Sea! It’s not a barrel of laughs but Affleck’s remarkable and the script is excellent in its truth. La La Land’s a joy though to be fair

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’m delighted you felt you had value for money for your ticket!!. Everyone is went with loved it in different ways so I’m in a minority even if I know I’m right!!


  21. Georgia says:

    “I should have done the fluff. If you want something that is the cinematic equivalent of a set of Ikea instructions this is for you” – absolutely brilliant.

    I wasn’t too sure on the film myself, definitely in the Oscars region but I think it was a little too heavy for my taste. I always try and trick myself into watching something more serious and always end up with feeling like shit!


    • TanGental says:

      Thanks. I still don’t get why it was so highly rated beyond an emperors new clothes sort of arrogance that because it seemed deep it had to be special as opposed to self indulgent mumble jumble. Still it’s probably me…


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