From the New York Film Festival here's Jason on the new film from Kenneth Lonergan.
The scene that we've been waiting for all during Manchester by the Sea comes pretty much where you might expect it to, that climactic slot about 3/4ths of the way in right where stories usually come to a head. And yet, and yet, the way that it comes showcases what makes Kenneth Lonergan such a fascinating writer and director. The way we get to this emotional head is typically, for this director, winding - the film is suffused with flashbacks that don't so much announce themselves as they do sneak in through the window and climb into bed beside you, surprise spooning you til sunrise. So when this climax comes where it should come, well that in itself is a surprise, but one you only notice in hindsight.
But it's more than that. Without going into specifics about what happens, what's so fascinating about this scene (and I'm using it as a microcosm for the whole film here) is how it lays there in wait in the broad daylight for its sneak attack. It just happens. And in Lonergan's hands this feels like the sweet hard mess of real life - broken boat motors and a bumped head; the moments where we catch up while our friend is bringing the car round and suddenly the world around us crumbles. Miniature hurricanes that don't announce themselves but sweep you up and slam you down without actually moving you an inch.
Manchester by the Sea is awash in such flashes, such sudden floods. Casey Affleck gives an astonishingly light performance of utter devastation. We spend the film putting together the puzzle of him only to find out the puzzle is broken and the pieces are vanishing in our hands as we gather them up. The actor makes us gather faster, and gather harder. He makes us want to sort it out alongside him. That his performance and the film are so much much funnier than you're anticipating only makes its foundation of bottomless grief all the more vertiginous - it is, like honest-to-goodness life, disorienting with drilled deep possibilities of goodness, and honesty, and pain.