Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Impressions: It is true, I have some leftover bitterness towards Boston and surrounding areas from living there for a little over a year. It’s not at all what I feel for the rest of New England area; I have nothing but lovely memories of my 5 years living in Vermont.  But that aggression in the air, as portrayed in this movie is all too real. Riding the T or a bus to work, I often felt as if a physical altercation could break out any second. And I am sure not all those people had things as horrible as what happens in this movie happen to them. It is an attitude that this movie captures perfectly. I felt it acutely when I lived there.

This is a VERY depressing movie. It has the distinction of being the only movie I saw made in 2016 that fits in the “shoot-your-knee-caps-off” category of depressing. I knew it was a sad movie, and avoided it for a while. But I did not realize just how depressing, until I saw it. It is beautifully shot, and captures the mood and emotion of a place better than anything I have ever seen. It is also terrifically acted. The dialogue is just there to fill the space, it’s really the silences that convey the emotion and the underlying plot.

Something horrible has happened to Lee, and he has run away from Manchester.  He returns to help take care of his teenage nephew, but has to face his past. I’ve seen You Can Count on Me by the same writer/director, which also, interestingly features a messed up uncle. Although in that film, everyone else is portrayed as messed up to some degree as well. Here it seems everyone else has it relatively together, but Lee just keeps messing up and ends up deciding that the only solution is to try to protect everyone else from himself. While there are some lighter scenes thrown in with the teenage nephew trying to juggle his many girlfriends, this movie is very heavy. Some scenes are so heart wrenching I don’t think I could see them ever again.

Facts: A slow moving story set in New England, about a tragedy and its toll on the man who feels responsible and his wider family dynamics.

Sparrows (2015)

Impression: Icelandic, set in the far north small town during the summer, so there is no night. Icelandic summer means non-stop daylight, and the light with which the film is painted is unlike anything I have seen, everything is sharper, and more stark.  All sense of time is lost, and events seem to happen and escalate a lot faster than they would somewhere where action takes place over 12 hour stretches followed by breaks.  Somehow, everything is amped up. The plot follows a teenager who unwillingly comes to stay with his dad and grandmother for the summer. The otherworldly Icelandic landscape is captured really well, and is a great background for his coming to terms with adulthood in a series of progressively more heartbreaking episodes. Definitely a candidate for the “shoot your kneecaps off” category of depressing films. Still, very good!

Facts: A teenage boy comes to spend a summer with his estranged father and grandmother in the far north of Iceland.