Review: Just ahead of its theater release, Hollywood premiere in Beverly for Manchester by the Sea

Meg Montagnino Jarrett introduced the movie, Manchester by the Sea, from the Cabot stage in Beverly, MA, this past Thursday evening, the first public screening in Massachusetts. Members of the audience worked on the film, and dignitaries such as Senator Bruce Tarr and Mayor Romeo Theken were invited. Montagnino Jarrett is a local film producer who worked on behalf of the MA Film office to bring these kinds of projects to the area and is the official liaison for Rockport and Gloucester. Manchester by the Sea is directed by Kenneth Lonergan who appears in a biting scene.

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Should you see it because of the setting? Yes.

I didn’t recognize this as being such a typical Massachusetts or even an American story. I registered quality and pathos– a modern day Greek tragedy so thoughtfully sculpted it will be understood across the globe, whether you’ve set one foot in this state or not.

You can however walk right home: the sense of place is rendered as carefully as an artist can, as much– or more –than the characters and script. Impressions of the gray and brown landscape long shots were so right. I thought about winter scenes by local artists, like Stoddard’s murals at Sawyer Free Public Library. Residents can tally scenes, wardrobe, and dialogue filled with local references to Cape Ann communities: the harbor, Ten Pound Island, Rose Marine, Seatronics, local New England homes, the ‘Edward Hopper’ Herrick Court staircase, Richdale mart, property alongside East Gloucester elementary, signs along Highway 128, Manchester Essex school, Willow Rest, hockey scenes and Viking posters. Don’t worry, unless you are the talented location scouts celebrating at this premiere– which they were, Cabot has a bar and snacks–audiences won’t find each and every recognition flicker with just one screening. There were far too many, and oft times veiled. Besides, if you possess a beating heart you will be squeezing your friend, looking away, or grabbing Kleenex at least a couple of times.

Does it deserve Oscar buzz? Yes.

Manchester by the Sea is a beautiful and searing movie.

The film is a meditation on grief, love, and life. You’ll find flaws. That’s subjective and feels real, too. It’s meticulously crafted and directed. Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams are vivid; all of the cast and crew will be impacted by having been a part of the movie.  The movie will fuel your eyes and perspective while you watch, and hover around your thoughts and conversations days later. Walking away from the theater, I said American cinema verite. My mind wandered to more mood and art: crisp short stories; poetry; two films, House of Sand and Fog and In the Bedroomnot direct comparisons but as other powerful clutch ups. On the drive home we shared family stories and discussed edges of tragedy. Life and art can be devastating.

I made a mental list of movies that made me crumple beyond the pale. This one wasn’t exactly that for me, thankfully, as the lights came up quickly!  But it was memorable as all get out, and as art. Are there movies that have made you cry, yet you’d watch them again; or sad movies you haven’t forgotten?  I think this might be one for many viewers.

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Part II: more on the making of the film, locally 

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