by Coop Cooper
Two more films that could receive an Oscar nomination or two…
“Silence” – In the 17th Century, the Jesuit order in Portugal begins receiving disturbing reports that their missionary priests in Japan are being detained and that the authorities are persecuting the 300,000 Christian followers in the country. Two Jesuit priests, Fathers Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) volunteer to covertly enter Japan in order to discover the facts and locate their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is said to have disappeared. They smuggle themselves into mainland Japan where they are immediately greeted by native Japanese Christians who live in hiding and tell tales of Christians being rounded up, tortured and executed under the country’s recent ban on the religion. As the priests venture further into the country, they discover those who enforce the ban have developed a frighteningly effective method for ridding the country of Christianity.
Director Martin Scorsese fought for decades to bring this movie to life, so when he finally did, the expectations were high. Everyone assumed it would automatically receive awards nominations and possibly blow many of the other nominees out of the water. Although it’s a well-done and well-acted film, the plot is painfully slow and uneventful. I’m sure Scorsese was fascinated with the clashes of culture in the story and the moral implications of the Japanese fear of cultural erosion resulting in Christians being forced to denounce their god. Cinematically, it did not require a two and a half hour running time.
Although it was hard to sit through, the subject matter is interesting from a historical perspective. Whether Scorsese cared or not that it was a critical success is unknown, but it was his long-running passion project so I doubt he regrets making it… In fact, I’m sure he wishes he had made it sooner. It will probably only be interesting to history buffs and I will be surprised if it is nominated for anything other than minor technical awards.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“Manchester by the Sea” – Casey Affleck plays Lee, a divorced janitor/handyman at an apartment complex who is bitter, burned out and constantly reprimanded for talking back to the rude tenants. He drinks alone and starts random fights at bars, then returns to work the next day just as miserable as before. When he learns his brother (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart attack, Lee is tasked to break the news to his brother’s teenaged son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and bring him home. While Lee makes funeral arrangements, he looks after Patrick but is shocked to learn he has been named Patrick’s legal guardian. Taking this on would mean he would have to quit his job and move back to his hometown, but a past tragic mistake makes him even more reluctant to accept the responsibility.
The writing and acting here is near perfect, and the flashbacks showing Lee’s tragic past keeps the main story from dragging before it ever gets slow. All of the secrets of the characters are revealed by the halfway point, but what remains is the relationship development between Lee and Patrick which is the crux of the story and the ultimate payoff of the film. There are a lot of dramatic, yet somewhat comedic and heartwarming moments. There is also heartbreak when Lee tries to assimilate back into his hometown and do the right thing, but isn’t always welcomed or appreciated by his charge. Fantastic dialogue, performances, storytelling, subtext, all of it works. I went into it not not interested in it at all but I liking it a great deal… in fact I almost loved it. So far, it’s neck-and-neck with “La La Land” for all of the potential Oscar contenders that could get a Best Picture nomination. “Manchester by the Sea” is well worth the effort.
Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars