Set in an area of the United States, seemingly unbothered by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or YOYO (You’re on your Own), MBTS is a slow rollercoaster ride. At first it unfolds like a meandering bore. The way a vintage wooden child’s train built on a track going around the grounds of a park is quaint and simple in it’s entertainment, but doesn’t compare to the more modern versions screaming their way along ever faster and louder.
Then, out of nowhere, the story’s track becomes steeper, cars need restraints as it speeds up, turning slowly but on a precarious angle that makes you fear deraliment, as the experience goes fearfully into a dark tunnel. Although you know the ride has an end, all of a sudden the fun is tempered by doubt in the design to deliver what was expected. In this deeply effective film, Casey Affleck quietly holds the story as a Father and Husband, who’s life transitions from a carefree journey, to a living nightmare. His character is a tight suitcase packed with regret, guilt and potential, imprisoned in a brutal reality due to carelessness at the end of a normal night that changed everything.
This is difficult stuff. The themes of hope, loss, love, atonement, judgement and redemption are skilfully intertwined in understated scenes, free of sharp edits or leading music. It’s easy to dismiss the cinematography and set design, but both are immersive. The value of this film is how flawed the main characters are, acknowledging their limits more than they brag on their strengths.
Usually I support movies about the multicultural experience, favouring themes about people of colour, women and socioeconomic influences related to culture. I added the very white Manchester By the Sea to my list of screenings at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival because I really like Casey Affleck as an actor. I was not disappointed.
I hope MBTS finds an audience that appreciates what it has to offer. Among the CGI porn of bigger than life superhuman, extraterrestrial, alternative universes, there are only humans in this movie. They confirm that sometimes the only thing that matters is the one thing that is no more. And how does one live with that?
Go see and find out. You won’t be disappointed either.