Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Kenneth Lonergan, the writer of Gangs Of New York and Analyze This, gets to showcase his directing chops too in this drama about a man drowning in loss, who is surprised to become the guardian of his nephew when his brother suffers from a heart attack.
It’s one of those films that could be incredibly heart warming. And plot wise it reminds me a lot of many a chick lit best seller, but with two major twists: there is no redemption here, and the guy is a total jerk.
Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a man who works as a janitor and appears to have very little emotion, other than to break out into fights in bars. He’s clearly severely depressed. But why? Flashbacks throughout the film show his relationship with a wife (Williams) and three children who are no longer around, and his relationship with his brother and nephew in Manchester. When his brother (Chandler) dies suddenly, he returns to his old home town and discovers that he’s been made the guardian of his 16 year old nephew. And also that he can’t escape the past.
But here’s the thing: when he was with his wife and kids, he did things like tell them that he wished he was still single, have parties on weeknights til 2 am and then ridicule his wife when she objected, allowed people do use cocaine in his house where his children are… I mean, you could tell he was partly joking about being single again, but…. Well, he feels pretty sorry for himself when he does get his wish. But I found it pretty hard to be sorry for him.
So, when he gets custody of his teenage nephew (who is a total creep) does he learn life lessons and redeem himself? Well, actually it’s not that kind of film. And I respect that. It’s more real. Some things you don’t get over.
It’s a pretty hard film to watch, mostly because for me it was hard to care about Lee and his nephew as soon as you realised that they weren’t decent people. I was not at all invested. A lot of people have said that for them it was a hard film because it’s so relentlessly depressing, and there’e truth to that too.
But it wouldn’t be fair to not point out that it’s an excellently crafted film. Lonergan is clearly a talented director, and I look forward to his future work. The camera work is incredibly beautiful, the film is long, but well paced, and the performances are all excellent. It all makes sense, looks good, and fits together well. It’s not a bad film. It’s just that it didn’t make me feel much other than frustration.
See It If: it’s up for an Oscar, and some of you will appreciate this film, some of you won’t.