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.