The cold tone of the film runs throughout, from the pale snow scene to the misty breath, all revealing the coldness of Manchester by the sea, which is consistent with the temperament of the film’s story. And in some flashback clips, there are golden waves flooded with sunshine, heralding the once beautiful life.
The film opens with a series of plain life scenes. An ordinary middle-aged man named Li does the most ordinary work: repairing toilets, repairing water pipes, and shoveling snow. He doesn’t seem to have a family. After work, he went to the bar and drank dull, taciturn, but his temper was just a little bit. A lonely, reticent, irritable and somewhat failed soul is presented to us through a series of simple shots.
“Manchester by the Sea” seems to have a casual film title. The Manchester it refers to is not the prosperous city in the UK, but a small coastal city in the southern United States. The story starts from the endless calm sea…
In the cold winter, only seagulls are flying in the gray sky, and several fishing boats are floating on the sea. After the soothing background music, a surly middle-aged man Li appeared. He is a property maintenance worker who lives alone in the basement of Boston. He mechanically helps people replace water pipes, dump garbage and shovel snow every day. He doesn’t care what the various residents in the building say about him, and he doesn’t care about any women’s strike-ups. He was expressionless and talkative, a frustrated man, but he had to continue his life. The plain scenes are laid out on the screen without reservation, and a sense of conflict that is about to break out of the shell is constantly brewing. The sudden death of his brother Joe forced Li to return to his hometown of Manchester, an American seaside town, to deal with the will and follow-up matters left by his brother.
When dealing with the funeral, Li learned that his brother, who had always done everything right, had entrusted his 16-year-old son Patrick to himself, which made it difficult for him to accept. At this time, the film began to look back, and we also began to truly understand the truth in these fragmented details that were created deliberately or unintentionally. Like other men in town, Li once had a beautiful wife and three lovely children. He especially coaxed babies. His son who was a few months old soon stopped crying in his arms, and such happiness Life was broken by himself. In the early morning after having fun with friends, he went shopping. After adding a few large firewoods, he forgot to put down the fire barrier of the fireplace. When he came back, his house had been engulfed by fire, his wife was rescued, and three young children were upstairs. Unfortunately, he was killed.
The wife on the stretcher was distraught and refused to speak to him. The policeman in the police station also said to him after the questioning: “You just made a big mistake, but you can’t be convicted of this mistake.” He replied At the devastated scene, there was only a small body bag, and he was still holding the diaper he bought for his son. He tried to raise a gun to commit suicide but was stopped. Originally, the moment he went out was because his sick wife slept better, so he didn’t turn on the heating, but gave birth to the fireplace; he even suspected that he had forgotten to install the fire barrier when he walked halfway, but he still did not turn back. He loved his family so seriously, but ruined everything because of a momentary negligence.
How to write hurt
Hegel’s tragic conflict theory emphasizes: “The essence of tragedy is ethical self-splitting and reconciliation, and the splitting of ethical entities is the source of tragedy conflict.” In this film, Li’s tragedy is a conflict with good self. He numbs himself with hard and physical work. Choosing to leave his painful place and go to Boston is for the same reason: he can live well, but he only wants to leave all the people and things he has experienced in the past and punish himself for the rest of his life.
Li is not an alcoholic, he is a good father and husband. After committing a big mistake, he could not forgive himself like this. For the rest of his life, he would exile and punish himself. He could not have joy, ease, or time to forget his mistakes. “When both parties to the conflict fulfill their one-sided ethical requirements, they exclude the other party who has the same defense, so both parties are guilty.” He is fighting against his kind self and constantly telling himself: “People like me don’t need it. To be rescued, I can only accept.”
The older brother Joe, who had been taking care of Li, passed away in the winter. He lay in the hospital morgue waiting for his burial. Because the frozen soil is not easy to dig out, he has to stay in the cold storage of the hospital until spring. Joe entrusted his son Patrick to Lee. He regarded Patrick as the last cure for Lee, but also to give Lee a “reason to live” again.
The only few warm and playful scenes in the film are the small quarrels between Patrick and Lee. Lee, who was educating children on the street, became a father again. In order to fulfill his nephew’s wish, Li used the gun money to exchange the motor for the boat so that Patrick and his girlfriend could go to sea on the boat. This is the second time that Li smiled in the film. The last time was when his sons and daughters had both. .
Patrick, a young man who is in the rebellious period, has long since faded from the childishness of his peers and endures grief like a little adult. Because of the sudden death of his father, he has to hide his inner feelings and do everyday things.
At the moment when the refrigerator door suddenly didn’t close and the frozen chickens kept falling, he realized that his father was lying in the cold morgue like this, and they had to do it just because of some “money” reasons. At that moment, he was just a 16-year-old child.
We have many moments like this when we suddenly fall into a difficult problem that is difficult to resolve. This problem does not make people very boring or sad for a while, but because of the consequences of the incident and the regrets it brings, the mood is constantly clouded.
In order to maintain the dignity that adults deserve, we will still sit in front of the computer as always, even if the text on the screen has all become busy lines in our minds. In order to maintain our character, we even joked with people around us, and even laughed at ourselves, “I am used to failure”, but only we know that this insensitive pain will continue to wear down on ourselves.
In order not to fall into greater compassion, and because no one has a reason to empathize with him, for Li, who is guilty, any understanding and comfort from others will only increase his burden rather than dispel him. There are some mistakes that can’t be remedied, and there is no way to take back the wrong things you say to your beloved. In the end, Li did not choose to reconcile with the past. He fell and did not get up. Regret will occupy a long part of his life. Bitterness has to be persisted, and that is life.
Silence and blank
In this film, silence and blank play a very important role. Li’s silence seemed decadent and mysterious. His brother’s death was the trigger to uncover his trauma, and it was also the beginning of breaking his speech silence and re-examining the past and self.
Li was discussing the issue of guardianship with the lawyer in the law firm, uncontrollably recalling that terrible night in his mind. In this memory, a few empty shots were inserted as blanks: heavy snow that was falling tightly, a bumpy boat on the sea, and seagulls wandering on the beach. This is the blizzard in Li’s life, and his heart is suffering severely, as if a boat cannot find peace in the rough sea. Just as seagulls wandering by the sea heralded that the weather will get worse and worse, Li’s life has since entered the black age.
If this tragedy is a natural disaster, Li may still have the courage to live anew. But this “accident” was caused by himself, and this was what Li was most unacceptable.
His silence is a struggle with himself, he has no more strength to deal with real life. His strong sense of guilt does not allow him to get a new life. This is the most beautiful and cruel part of human nature. Not everyone has had Li’s tragic experience, but his inner experience is by no means unique. The fire not only took away his family, but also smeared his life. After that, there was nothing but ashes and nothing left.
Behind Li’s silence are the multiple constraints formed by the three identities of the enemy, the sinner, and the victim. Even if he can destroy his own life, he cannot redeem his sins and cannot be forgiven by himself.
There are also unspeakable rifts in the relationship between Li and his nephew, which can be regarded as another layer of blankness that has not been stated. Although the two people still have tender moments of caring for each other, they are more of a series of communication barriers. When two people are together, they always seem to have something to say but also seem to have nothing to say. The innocuous sentences make the atmosphere more embarrassing and silent. The biggest conflict is whether Patrick has moved out of town to live with his uncle. Patrick’s excitement and curiosity about this big world, and his nostalgia and dissatisfaction with Manchester are in stark contrast to Li’s frustration. Li still chose to escape-however, avoiding the past also means avoiding the present.
The past he tried hard to get rid of filled every space he was in, so there was a clear estrangement between him and reality. Whether it’s in a crowded bar or a coveted banquet hall, he is the one out of place. What is worrying is that this kind of alienation was not Li’s active choice at first, but a complication of using silence to paralyze himself and escape from reality. It is different for others to be unable to understand and never seek to understand. Although neither can get real comfort, the former can get emotional vent, while the latter can only curl up in a closed lair.
In Patrick, Lee saw himself and his son who had not had time to grow up. Patrick seems to be a substitute, but the vacancy in life cannot be filled by anything. This is the weakest place. The beginning of the film actually reveals this irreparability, and the father is irreplaceable for the child. The estrangement between Patrick and Lee is a projection of the lack of Lee’s fatherhood, and it is also a two-way proof of the irreplaceable relationship between father and son. The better the family life in the past is, the more it reflects the huge emptiness and loss of the present.
Silence is Li Chang’s performance of not being good at communicating with others after he suppresses his heart, and it is also a way for him to protect himself. When silence and quiet merge, sadness is dispelling and accumulating. It’s like Li keeps clearing the snow in front of the door, but the snow will still cover the ground the next day. The winter in Manchester seems to be forever long, just as there is a kind of grief that will always attack Li without end.
The film does not show the hysterical accusation of Li’s ex-wife, nor does it describe the process of separation between Li and his ex-wife. Such a blank space makes people unable to use imagination to fill it. “You don’t actually know me, it’s no big deal. It’s no big deal.” Under Li’s pretending to be strong, there were unbearable pain and self-blame, and his heartfelt words turned into relative choking. How broken the once-loved couple and the once-happy family are, and how the surviving people face each other, these are the unbearable touch and unforgettable wounds that cannot be healed. The viewer may be shocked, but apart from sighing, there is no right to even show sympathy. Outsiders often think that they can “feel the same”, but in the end they can only “be out of the way”. This is a kind of sorrow that no one can understand.
“Manchester by the Sea” is a movie about life and pain. The two are not contradictory or conflicting. Most of the time, they coexist. The characters in the film have more or less struggled in the quagmire of pain, some of them are deep in the quagmire, some of them flee, but the same is that they are all dressed in mud and continue to move forward. The most touching thing about this film is its incomplete ending. “Everything will be okay” in many cases does not apply to real life.
As the lawyer said, “No one can understand your experience”, yes, reconciliation with time is mostly the self-comfort of the viewer, not the party’s bitter medicine. He would still dream of his daughter’s questioning of himself, fighting with strangers in the bar, and continuing to live a lonely single life. The more others praised Joe, the deeper the scars they made on Li’s heart. He will never forget how his brother stayed by his side after the fire, and how he wanted to cheer himself up. But he himself seemed to have been deliberately forgotten, he brought silence, or that he himself became a kind of silence.
The people in the small town either talked about discoloration or kept silent about him. When his brother was buried, he was still silent, watching the newborn baby in his ex-wife’s arms, watching the silhouette of his nephew gradually mature, a kind of pain suddenly overflowed the screen-between the child and the youth, his child lost his life. ;Between life and death, what he loses is all. He stood in the middle of his life, whether he looked back or raised his eyes, it was nothing but a blank. He was alive with a heavy past, never willing and unable to get relief.
In those empty shots, the sea is still glowing with small ripples, and the buildings in the town are as quiet as yesterday, as if nothing happened, everything is calm. However, some people’s lives have been completely changed, the past lives cannot be restored, and the future is blurred.
Patrick asked him why he couldn’t stay here. After a long silence, he said, “I can’t stand it anymore.” The past swallowed him a little bit, and now he was urging him a little bit, so in such a pull, any outsiders The comfort and encouragement seemed pale. In the last shot, Li and his nephew are sitting on a boat fishing, with their backs to the audience. The laughter of the past turned into quiet silence. No need to say anything, nothing can be said. This is the power of white space, a more shocking power than just crying.
Maybe everyone is an island, but the lighthouse that existed in the film can still be built, and there can still be warm waiting and gentle expectation, just like Li hopes to make a room for his nephew who may visit. Even if existentialism believes that people cannot understand each other, even if individual lives become a predicament that can never be overcome, no one can obliterate the meaning of existence. Between the uncontrollable destruction and the desperate pursuit of perfection, everyone has the right to choose independently, and each choice has its own unique value.
It is not appropriate to use “tragedy” to define this movie crudely, because what it shows and what we are facing is an eternally flowing life.