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Manchester By The Sea

Allied • Loving

December 1, 2016

Manchester By the Sea (***) R

Playwright and occasional filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea is only his second film in fifteen years but it successfully builds on themes established in Lonergan’s superbly crafted earlier films (Margaret, You Can Count on Me). Those themes being the experience of dealing with the emotional losses that can seemingly come out of nowhere and rip apart the very fabric of our lives. Contrary to what’s been said about the film I don’t feel that it surpasses Lonergan’s previous filmmaking forays but it’s still a powerful cinematic voyage that’s more than worth the trip.

Casey Affleck turns in an award caliber performance as Lee Chandler, a man who once had a family and a life that was taken from him in a tragic set of circumstances.

Michelle Williams & Casey Afleck

Lee long ago left his hometown, trying to put his old life behind him and now blots out his miseries with as much booze as he can muster while earning his keep as a janitor. When Lee’s brother, Jeff (Kyle Chandler) suddenly dies, Lee is forced to return to his past as he wrestles with the possibility of becoming a full time guardian to his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), an emotional challenge that he’s not sure he’s ready to accept.

There are great moments of power in the film but it’s nearly fatally overlong at 137 minutes and as such feels unfocused at times, taking its own sweet time in reaching its ultimate conclusion. Shorn of about thirty minutes, it would have been near perfect. As it stands it’s still a good piece of filmmaking that is justified to a certain extent in its praise even if it overstays its welcome just a wee bit.

Allied (***) R

Veteran director Robert Zemeckis’ latest film, Allied, is many things. It is alternately a solid WWII yarn, a love story, a mystery and a meditation on the moments that make up the lives we choose to lead. The good news is that it succeeds at all of them proving, at least from my point of view, that Zemeckis hasn’t lost any of the directorial prowess that he exhibited during the last four decades in such films as the Back to the Future trilogy, Castaway, Contact and Forrest Gump. It’s a solid story well told and that’s about the best you can hope for when making a pilgrimage to the movies. It’s also a welcome respite from the glut of super hero and franchise films that litter multiplex screens today.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are allies during the Second World War, who pose as a married couple in order to carry out an assassination attempt in Germany.

Cotillard & Pitt in Allied

They fall in love, marry and seemed destined to live out an idyllic existence with their daughter until an unexpected incident threatens to tear their lives apart.

This forms the basis of the second hour of the film in which the stakes are raised and the mystery element plays itself out.

The technical credits are superb, especially Zemeckis’ depictions of the bombing raids that were a regular threat to civilian life during those times, and cinematographer Don Burgess’ superb lensing. Allied is one of the better films to come out of the holiday movie going season and certainly deserves a look.

Loving (***) PG-13

Director Jeff Nichols grew up in Arkansas and later graduated from the NC School of the Arts. I mention that because it’s never been more apparent than it is with his latest film, Loving. He’s proved in the past with his previous films-Mud, most notably, comes to mind- that he has an uncanny knack for replicating the rhythms of small town life in the Deep South. With Loving, I’d say he’s even gone so far as to outdo himself in that department. He captures all the nuances of the Deep South of the late 1950s in loving-pardon the pun-detail and gets at a lot of the ugly truths in our not so distant past.

Loving is the true-life tale of Mildred and Richard Loving. Richard was white and carried all of the privileges that a man of his stature had during the late 1950s in his home state of Virginia.

Negga & Edgerton in Loving

That is until Richard marries his true love, Mildred, who happens to be black. Richard and Mildred are given the option to either leave town for 25 years or go to jail for the crime of being in love. When the ACLU catches wind of this transgression some five years later, Mildred and Richard reluctantly decide to take on the establishment, a case that will set a precedent for decades to come. The film doesn’t resort to melodrama but, instead, follows the struggles that Mildred and Richard face when forced to leave their former lives behind.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are extremely effective as Mildred and Richard. Their chemistry is palpable and serves to underscore the poignancy of the tale being told. It’s sad to think that it was only half a century since this kind of injustice was all too common. In our current social climate it isn’t inconceivable that similar injustices might transpire. Loving serves as a reminder that love really trumps all and that this is what should be remembered above all else. 

Loving is playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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