In Review!: “Manchester By The Sea”

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is another intuitive film from the writer/director, a blend of the intellectual character/grief study of his You Can Count On Me and the inquisitiveness of Margaret. This film may lack the organic highs of his two previous efforts, but key to its sturdiness is a sharp screenplay and a bone-deep performance by Casey Affleck. The film and Affleck are raw like the bitter cold of winter, but lifted by the burning soul underneath.

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In Review!: “Certain Women”

Kelly Reichardt is our chief purveyor of the American western landscape, creating films such as Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff that also bring women to the forefront. Her latest, Certain Women, is a triptych of female-led stories (from three disassociated short stories by Maile Meloy) that examine this geographically located kind of woman and the unique dispositions that result from their environment. If Reichardt’s films have been desribed as remote or chilly, Certain Women has a more easily accessible wealth of complex emotion and intellect beneath its stoic gaze.

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Each of its three chapters feature women not saying what they are thinking or feeling, whether out of frustrated ambivalence (Laura Dern), familial politicking and shame (Michelle Williams), or lack of relational knowhow (the gloriously present newcomer Lily Gladstone). With only circumstantial ties binding them, its Reichardt inquisitive and patient hand that make these disparate pieces feel like a complete whole. The result is fascinating to chew on as the film lingers, if not always easy to reconcile – the parts are mostly more incisive than the whole.

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