That’s all I can say.
Okay, that was a lie. I can, and will, say a lot more. A little bit of background on the movie can be found in this trailer here. By background I didn’t mean story details. Did you think I meant story details? No no no, trailers should convey a movie’s tone, not give away every plot point. Lookin’ at you, Terminator Genisys trailer that gave away the major twist. That rad song in the second half is “Land of the Living” by Matthew Perryman Jones, by the way. You’re welcome.
So Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is our main character. There are two stories, one present and one past, that follow essentially the two defining moments in Lee’s adult life. I won’t spoil what they are, but in the trailer it does tell you that Lee’s older brother has died and now Lee is responsible for his nephew, Patrick.
Let’s start with some words about Mr. Kenneth Lonergan, the writer and director, shall we? This is definitely his greatest achievement on film. He does some really interesting things in the movie, my personal favorite being the staging of Lee. In most of the scenes in the past, Lee is center frame when he’s the subject of the shot. In the present day scenes, he is almost never center of frame, and often part of him is out of the frame. It’s a subtle move done in concert with cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes that tells us about Lee without saying a word. And another quick thing about Lipes, if he doesn’t have one of the more eclectic IMDb pages for cinematographers than I don’t know who would qualify. I mean, Whitest Kids U’Know and possible Oscar candidate Manchester by the Sea? How awesome is that range?
Speaking of the Oscars, I will comment on this movie’s chances in my opinion and also with the full consideration that the Oscars are a bunch of toff for the most part. There are too many good movies and the awards are supposed to be the best in an industry that is as subjective as any other creative medium. That being said, I think the film has a really good shot at best original screenplay, because Lonergan does so much by leaving things out. I don’t think the ideas are necessarily incredibly original, but Lonergan has written them so well and the characters so well that I think he deserves it if he gets it. I think Lucas Hedges deserves a best supporting actor nod, maybe not necessarily the award. I don’t know, I haven’t seen all the movies that will be in the running this year. Michelle Williams was great but I don’t know about best supporting actress just because of the limited screen time she has. I believe the aforementioned Lipes should be recognized for some great camera work, though I’d still probably pick either James Laxton for Moonlight or Bradford Young for Arrival to win. The score from Lesley Barber was pretty fantastic too. These beautiful melodies and operatic pieces of music accompany horrible things on screen in a contrast that is so beautifully heartbreaking.
This brings me to Casey Affleck. My personal favorite actor. Well, I go back and forth between Affleck the younger and Michael Fassbender, but this movie makes me lean towards Affleck for sure. Here are the two of them smoking so you can decide for yourself:
I don’t know if he’ll win best actor at the Oscars. I would assume he won’t because this is an original script so without playing a real person or a character from a book, I’d say his chances are pretty thin. In my incredibly biased book, though, this was the best acting performance all year that I’ve seen. As I said, Lonergan wrote a great script that’s great for the things he doesn’t write as much as it is for the things he does, but you still need someone to act the heck out of it and pull it off. Casey Affleck’s disaffected present version of Lee contrasts the past lively version of Lee so masterfully, I don’t even have the praise to describe it. He got a lot of buzz back when for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which also gets an honorary Oscar for longest friggin’ title) but didn’t really seem to blow up like some people thought he would. I know he has a couple of directorial jobs lined up, and I’m stoked to see his reuniting film with David Lowery and Rooney Mara at Sundance next month, so I hope we see as much of him as possible as the years continue.
I realize now that I haven’t said anything negative about the film so I better do that. Right before I got to the theater to watch this, something got in my eye. It was one of those times when it feels like a boulder has fallen in so you try everything: folding your eyelid, rubbing it furiously, cursing at it, until you just give up and then blink a few times until it goes away somewhat but not entirely. So for the whole film I had this slight pain in one of my eyes. Seriously, that’s the only bad thing I can think of to say about the movie. I’ve never thought to myself so many times “I love this movie” while watching a movie for the first time. So that’s that.