"Manchester by the Sea": You Can't Just Die

"Manchester by the Sea": You Can't Just Die

No, very few things are fixed at the very end of "Manchester by the Sea," but in its state of grief. No one has truly moved on. But in these relationships, there sure was a whole lot of hope.


If you haven't watched the movie, I would recommend not reading on because there are major spoilers.

"I don't like the fact that, nowadays, it feels like it's not permissible to leave something unresolved, I mean, what the fuck is closure? Some people never get that. Some people live with their trauma for years."

This was director Kenneth Lonergan talking about his crux of his most successful movie, "Manchester by the Sea," It is the most realistic depiction of grief I've seen in film, and it's not an easy watch by any stretch. I've cried every time I've seen the movie, and the grief shown by the main character, Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck), is irreparable. It is revealed in a series of flashbacks throughout the film, but the summary of them is this: he lost his two children in a house fire one night, and his marriage proceeded to fall apart.

The movie begins with a scene of the death of Lee's brother, Joe. Lee goes to a lawyer with his now-orphaned nephew, Patrick. He has to move back to Manchester, where all the brutal loss and tragedy catch up to him and is now Patrick's legal guardian. There is a scene near the end of the movie that I want this article to focus on: it is a brilliantly played scene in which Lee runs into his ex-wife, Randi, in Manchester. I've linked the scene, and implore you to watch it.

Everywhere he goes, Lee is greeted by whispers and glares from people he used to be friendly with. Downtrodden is a light word used to describe his disposition - perhaps devastated would be better. He awakes one day, having forgotten to turn the stove off, in panicked with deja vu and flashbacks to the night that changed his life. He walks around almost as a zombie.His past is such a level of devastation that he can't move on, something that Lonergan shows best in the following words:

"I don't like this lie that everybody gets over things that easily. Some people can't get over something major that's happened to them at all; why can't they have a movie too? Why can't there be one film about somebody who doesn't magically bounce back?"

The pivotal scene between Randi and Lee demonstrates this best - in both its pain and beauty. Randi says to Lee that "my heart was broken - cause it's always gonna be broken, and I know yours is broken, too." Although they both share the unbearable pain and suffering of having lost their children, Randi differentiates that Lee has it worse: "I don't have to carry it," as it was not she that left the screen door open on the fireplace on that ill-fated night.

"I love you! Maybe I shouldn't say that," Randi continues. With full control of the conversation, Randi makes many of her amends to Lee in the scene, but Lee's words are quiet and stuttered. "Please" and "thank you" are the phrases that dominate her dialogue as he desperately tries to cut her off and stop the painful talk.

Eventually, Lee tells Randi that "there's nothing there."

"You can't just die!" Randi says to him.

Even in his nothingness, Lee has found something special throughout the movie. Even when he is suffering, tormented, and feels every waking moment that he is in hell for his traumatic past, his grief overlaps with Patrick's, too. Both have lost their loved ones, and for both, their sarcastic humor are coping mechanisms for dealing. The flashbacks show clearly that Lee cares for Patrick, as he did his own children, but that the despair and haunting memories of the town of Manchester are too much for him to handle.

I found "Manchester by the Sea" to be, yes, a story of grief, but further than that, I find it to be a story of how people relate in the face of grief, and how they act among each other. The conversation between Lee and Randi, or the dynamic between Patrick and Lee are much greater and thought-provoking stories - none of the characters have closure from what happened. It seems like there may be a point they never will, but they've found something more in their brokenness: a love for one another in the face of suffering.

Terrible things happened in Lee's life, in particular, as Casey Affleck takes away the show in this movie. We empathize with him from the beginning to end. At various points of the movie, it's pretty clear that he wants to die. But he doesn't just die, and in doing so, his life went on - his story didn't end, and he was able to show and give the gifts of empathy and compassion to Patrick. No, very few things are fixed at the very end of "Manchester by the Sea," but in its state of grief. No one has truly moved on. But in these relationships, there sure was a whole lot of hope.

"It's funny, I started out trying to make a film about grief, about telling a story involving sorrow and regret. And as it went on, it occurred to me that it's a lot more about love than I'd realized," Lonergan finished.

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11 Things Psychology Majors Hear That Drive Them Crazy

No pun intended.

We've all been there. You're talking to a new acquaintance, or a friend of your parents, or whoever. And then, you get the dreaded question.

"So what are you studying in school?"

Cue the instant regret of picking Psychology as your major, solely for the fact that you are 99.9% likely to receive one of the slightly comical, slightly cliche, slightly annoying phrases listed below. Don't worry though, I've included some responses for you to use next time this comes up in conversation. Because it will.

Quick side note, these are all real-life remarks that I've gotten when I told people I was a psych major.

Here we go.

1. So are you, like, analyzing me right now?

Well, I wasn't. But yeah. Now I am.

2. Ugh so jealous! You picked the easy major.

"Lol" is all I have to say to this one. I'm gonna go write my 15-page paper on cognitive impairment. You have fun with your five college algebra problems, though!

3. So can you tell me what you think is wrong with me? *Shares entire life story*

Don't get me wrong; I love listening and helping people get through hard times. But we can save the story about how one time that one friend said that one slightly rude comment to you for later.

4. Well, s**t, I have to be careful what I say around you.

Relax, pal. I couldn't diagnose and/or institutionalize you even if I wanted to.

5. OMG! I have the perfect first client for you! *Proceeds to vent about ex-boyfriend or girlfriend*

Possible good response: simply nod your head the entire time, while actually secretly thinking about the Ben and Jerry's carton you're going to go home and demolish after this conversation ends.

6. So you must kind of be like, secretly insane or something to be into Psychology.

Option one: try and hide that you're offended. Option two: just go with it, throw a full-blown tantrum, and scare off this individual, thereby ending this painful conversation.

7. Oh. So you want to be a shrink?

First off, please. Stop. Calling. Therapists. Shrinks. Second, that's not a psych major's one and only job option.

8. You know you have to go to grad school if you ever want a job in Psychology.

Not completely true, for the record. But I am fully aware that I may have to spend up to seven more years of my life in school. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

9. So you... want to work with like... psychopaths?

Let's get serious and completely not-sarcastic for a second. First off, I take personal offense to this one. Having a mental illness does not classify you as a psycho, or not normal, or not deserving of being treated just like anyone else on the planet. Please stop using a handful of umbrella terms to label millions of wonderful individuals. It's not cool and not appreciated.

10. So can you, like, read my mind?

It actually might be fun to say yes to this one. Try it out and see what happens. Get back to me.

11. You must be a really emotional person to want to work in Psychology.

Psychology is more than about feeling happy, or sad, or angry. Psychology is about understanding the most complex thing to ever happen to us: our brain. How it works the way it does, why it works the way it does, and how we can better understand and communicate with this incredibly mysterious, incredibly vast organ in our tiny little skull. That's what psychology is.

So keep your head up, psychology majors, and don't let anyone discourage you about choosing, what is in my opinion, the coolest career field out there. The world needs more people like us.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?


Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

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