I kept scrolling past Manchester by the Sea on Amazon Prime Video wondering why it was so highly rated on IMDB, until I finally watched it this afternoon.
This movie is an astounding example of the power of stillness, and things left unsaid. From the nearly constant locked down camera angles to the complexity of emotions written between the lines of dialogue, this film really uses the power of scripting and camera motion (or a lack thereof) to its advantage.
First, the stillness of the camera is almost jarring. The consistency of each shot cutting to another still shot gives the feeling as though we're watching a slideshow, or looking at a series of paintings. Everything within the frame seems that much more important, as we aren't really panning past anything, but moreso staring at a static frame. Lonergan pushes this technique even further by adding motion to shots of particular importance, giving them a surreal quality, cueing us as to the shots' importance before the events in it even take place.
Second, the use of dialogue is fantastic. The script meanders and dances around the point in a way only the denizens of New England can, avoiding feelings of regret and remorse with a sarcastic comment, dismissive glance, or by simply changing the subject. The characters manifest their anger and frustration in self-destructive and hyper-realistic ways, bringing us deeper into the fold of the story. As things progress, there is a link drawn between the
As things progress, there is a link drawn between the motion and framing of the camera and particularly emotional scenes, culminating when Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck) has a conversation with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). The conversation start with the most subtle tension, slowly building around mundane conversation by changing tone and volume, until Randi finally breaks down and confronts the tension between them.
The shot is unapologetically still, showing the two of them divided perfectly by the corner of a wall behind them. The wall marks the difference between them, with Randi confronting their reality and Lee simply avoiding it. Finally, when Lee walks away the camera angle shifts, leaving Randi alone on her half of the wall and nothing left where Lee once stood. This subconsciously disengages him from the scene, leaving Lee alone to support herself and her feelings.
Techniques like these are used throughout the film, with some being too big of a point in the storyline to discuss here. Another fantastic film, totally worth checking out. Let me know what you thought in the comments, I'd love to hear more opinions, but keep the spoilers to a minimum (or at least give us an alert first!).
Manchester By the Sea - Full Cast & Crew. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034228/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast