Male and Female
A man and a boy, one an uncle, one a nephew, are engaged in an intimate fishing lesson off the lake on Manchester, Connecticut. This melodic view takes us from here through the uncle’s cold spiritual journey of knowing his place amidst the chaos of death.
Manchester by the Sea is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York), whose hard work shows in how deep he is willing to dive into the darkest corners of everyone we meet throughout his record of memories. The lonely, depressed, recently divorced plumber we are invited to connect with has a lot coming at him; having lost his brother to cardiac arrest, and now left to be the only one left to take in custody of his now fatherless nephew.
From watching the heartbreaking flashbacks that depict the uncertainty of the plumber’s path, to the humbling, somber performance by Casey Affleck (no tears necessary), all audiences suited for the well-earned R-rating will be greatly moved by its rough depiction of an everyday story within an everyday life.
What makes the chilling power of this deceptively simple story so powerful is the consistently cold feel that Lonergan maintains from start to finish. Being set in the northeast, snow appears all over to reflect the plumber’s state of mind, and the cold is felt all the greater depending on the amount of stress tugging between him and his blood relatives. The screen’s empty starkness takes its time to linger on the quietest of moments, screaming the loudest of internal noises without saying a word.
Manchester by the Sea could have easily taken place anywhere in the world, not necessarily in one particular small town in one particular part of the nation. What makes the Boston-Manchester setting work to its advantage is its subtle handling of the culture, right down to the look, feel, and taste of the area. The much-needed emphasis on father and son bonding through the quietness of fishing bookends the film with the one single image that defines everything valued by the people who live there. Also similar to last year’s big Oscar-winner Spotlight, there is a clear presence of Catholicism guiding the lives of all Bostonians, whether or not they consider themselves religious. They claim that all Catholics are Christian, which is not believed to be entirely true by everyone, nor is it said so in the feature, but it works to the advantage of making the sense of hope they seek after touch much closer to home.
There are plenty of independent features out there that tackle the discomforting subject of family death and custody, but none of them handle it with the same level of detail, humanity, and personal application as Manchester by the Sea. It’s not the feel-good holiday treat you may be looking for this time of year, but considering how family and tragedy essentially go hand-in-hand, Lonergan’s scholarly study on the personal crisis will help countless others in what to do about a similar trauma.
Hence, I encourage all to see this masterful, humbling work when they get the chance to, but not just with anyone, with the relatives they are the closest to. That way, you can walk out of the theater together sharing the tears of your worst and best memories. If more movies had the power to do that, then Hollywood would at last be restored to its former glory.
Dealing with the death of a relative is never easy for anyone, there are lots of mixed feelings, grudges against other family members, and doubts about the future. I personally have lived a charmed life up to this point, as no relative significantly close to me has died. I did lose an aunt to lung cancer about five years ago, and it was certainly sad for all of us, but I had no real personal connection with her. I also lost another aunt to old age, but it was not nearly as sad for any of us, for she had severe dementia and dying peacefully in her sleep was all we really wanted for her.
While I would not be the expert in this type of issue, here is the best of what I can give for you to understand how one with autism deals with the death of a family member.
Half the time, a death can come very suddenly, like how it’s depicted in this movie. It’s not like the person is at an old age and has a spot reserved in the nearby cemetery, rather a car crash, cardiac arrest, and public shooting can take your relative’s life away faster than you can blink. Change is already a complicated matter for anyone on the autism spectrum, but if their parent or sibling suddenly dies in an unexpected tragedy, all sorts of uncalled for changes take place. Now there’s nobody to carry out the essential duties in one’s day, nobody to carry on familiar laughs and inside jokes with, nobody to say “I love you” when times are difficult. It’s worse than a sudden schedule plan to what a person with autism does, it’s a complete absence of mental stability.
The solution to handling this sadly does not happen overnight, in fact, it may take months or years to overcome the trauma. But what anybody with autism most needs amidst a family tragedy is the presence of another family member who is still there.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #100: Never Stop Saying, “I Love You.”
They need to understand that while one family member is no longer there to provide comfort and joy, there are still numerous others around to listen to problems and show sincere empathy. If I lost my dad, I’d still have my mom. If I lost both, I’d still have my sister. If I lost all three, I’d still have my brother-in-law. There will always be somebody who loves you and will offer a shoulder for you to cry on.
But then there’s the countless other problems that happen as a result of the family tragedy:
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: Daddy Won’t Live With Us Anymore.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: Daddy Has a New Wife Now.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #74: The Parent’s New Partner Moves In.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but the death of a parent could almost certainly lead to getting a new stepparent and stepsiblings. It could even mean a housekeeper is hired to take care of things, causing all sorts of conflict.
There is no simple answer to how anyone, autistic or not, handles a change as huge as this, as it varies with the person and the situation. But when talking long term, as I said before, loved ones are still vital to the livelihood of one’s tragedy. Yet this is also a good opportunity to learn how to adjust to new changing situations, while setting a new routine for a new way of living.
Now this I am certainly an expert in, as I did have to go through lots of change. I had to change schools, places to live, jobs, and none of them were easy by any stretch. It certainly takes time (and lots of it) to adjust to a significantly new situation. Depending on what the change is, the new normal will always be embraced eventually. It’s all a matter of laying out what the new routine will be, and translating the old way of living into the new way of living.
- To transfer the old routine with the new routine, take what you used to do before, such as how a person would cook dinner for you, and reinterpret it to how it would work in the new routine, such as you cooking for yourself or relying on more microwave dinners.
- Always be willing to sacrifice your time to be there to comfort a friend or relative who lost a loved one. Even if it isn’t somebody you know very well, when they know somebody took time away to empathize with their trauma, it will help them.
- Always know that it takes a lot of time to adjust to life without somebody else. Also know that it takes longer for somebody on the autism spectrum to adjust to the significant new change. But at the same time, don’t lose hope.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. Digital image. Issue Magazine. Issue Inc. Web. <http://issuemagazine.com/manchester-by-the-sea/#/>.
Manchester by the Sea. Roadside Attractions. Web. <http://manchesterbytheseathemovie.com/>.