“I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it. I’m sorry.”
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges
Synopsis: When family tragedy forces Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) back to his hometown of Manchester, he has to face up to new responsibilities and past hardships he’s tried his best to detach himself from.
The wintery town of Manchester is as much a character as any of the film’s tragic leads. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows your business, and nothing is ever left behind. A place filled with heartache. The exact sort of town that you would want to escape if you were trying to avoid facing up to your past.
Which is exactly what Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler, an insular, quiet janitor is attempting to do before he’s dragged back by the death of his brother, who lands him with the guardianship of his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
It’s a meandering, understated exploration of how each of the pair deals with loss, with each other, and also their relationship with their hometown. There’s also a look at Lucas’s bond (or lack thereof) with his mother (Gretchen Mol), but this is left somewhat dangling. Similarly, the film itself kind of simply…wanders to its conclusion. But whilst it’s not necessarily “filmic” (at least structurally, in the traditional sense), considering how human it feels, a looser structure seems fitting.
Above all else it’s the performances that sell the realism. Affleck is outstanding – still, emotionally repressed, unable to communicate his feelings. His ex-wife Randi (the equally outstanding, but more sparingly used Michelle Williams) has the opposite problem, her emotions overflowing. Lucas meanwhile isn’t your average teenager – he brings a fair amount of angst, but also increasing smarts and wit, peppering the film with humour. Enough humour to make you smile in between the tears that will inevitably strike.
Rating (out of 5):