After our showing of Manchester By The Sea last Saturday, we've had our own domestic drama which has set me back from putting down some words about the movie. Linda collapsed on Monday night with complications from her surgery and the subsequent diet, and spent a few days in hospital. She's home now recovering, taking things very easy, watching what she eats, and generally being fussed over. In a month or two, we'll probably gloss over some of the details in our recollections of this week, and this will soon be behind us.
For Lee Chandler, Casey Affleck's character in Manchester By The Sea, every detail of the tragic events that threw his life into turmoil are with him every second of every day. I've written before about the different experience of viewing a movie for the second time once the plot points are understood, and here it only serves to amplify what a terrific performance this is from Casey Affleck, from the very start. From the penance-like drudgery of janitorial work in a frozen Quincy, through alcohol-inspired masochistic bar-fights, Affleck's character alternates between self-punishment for the terrible mistake he made, and maintaining the emotional force-field that holds back a torrent of grief that would overwhelm him. The strength of this performance is the under-statement that is his norm - Lee functions robotically, coldly, almost dismissively as a survival mechanism for his grief. When his defences waver, through contact with beer or closeness to the great love of his life, he becomes unstable. He recognises that he cannot keep his equilibrium if he stays - "I can't beat it". Every tiny jab at Lee's emotional core - from the townsfolk, or from his own tortured conscience - is there in Affleck's performance.
Casey Affleck will probably never get a role as important as this one in his career, but when given something as precious as this, he absolutely delivered one of the most impressive performances ever to win the Best Actor Oscar.