“Fend It Off”

I typically do not watch movies that are nominated for or win big awards like the Golden Globes and Academy of Motion Pictures (Oscar’s) because I find that my taste in movies and the people who make these nominations are very different.

However, I recently decided to watch Manchester by the Sea because I like Casey Affleck as an actor and find that most movies that Matt Damon is involved with are decent. I had no idea what the movie was about, but many people I know that did see the movie said it was “depressing.”

Even with the poor reviews from friends and the morning radio talk show hosts that slammed the movie, I decided to watch it anyway. That was about a month ago and I must say the movie wasn’t what I expected, not even close.

I found the movie powerful and truthful. I felt the sadness and pain from the main character because I could relate. I felt anxiety and emotion well up in me as I watched it with my wife. Although it is a depressing, it is an excellent movie about a man that lost two children because of his actions. The movie speaks the truth, which I for one appreciate.

A man whose wife left him after the children died. Although the actions were an accident, they were still his actions and something that he could never get over. He couldn’t forgive himself for what had happened. He moved away (from Manchester) and lived a very isolated and minimalistic existence.

Casey Affleck did an amazing job of portraying the feelings of a dad that lost his children. The anger, self-hatred, the alcohol, the struggle to forgive himself and the inability to allow himself to move forward in life.

One scene in the movie shows the grieving dad leaving the police interrogation room and grabbing one of the police officer’s guns and trying to shoot himself in the head before being tackled by several other police officers. The scene was powerful, very real, and believable. He wanted to die. I think many grieving dads will relate with this scene or at the very least understand the emotional pain this guy was in when he made this rash decision.

One of the lines in the movie I thought was powerful was when he said, “I can’t beat it.” Referring to “getting over” the loss of his two children. I think all of us can relate to that line. My wife and have a saying, “you get through it, but you never get beyond it.” Basically, it’s the same thing.

I’ll never get over losing my children, but I’ve learned to survive it. I’ve learned to put a smile back on my face and mean it most of the time. However, there is this dark cloud that is always lingering in the back of my head. I generally fend it off, but I know its waiting for me to have a moment of weakness or let my guard down. There are some days it wins, but most of the time, I do. But I always know it lingers around every corner, waiting for the right moment.

If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, share your thoughts with me.


Photo Credit: DancingTerrapin Flickr via Compfight cc

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User Comments ( 6 )

  • Nikki

    I agree, Kelly. Great post. Ivan and I also found the movie “Collateral Beauty” to be very cathartic as well. It’s refreshing to see Hollywood is portraying grief in more realistic ways. Both movies can be very depressing but for those who’ve been through that kind of hell, watching them can often times be really therapeutic, depending on where we are in the grief maze.

  • Thom Gonyeau

    Kelly, thanks for your post. I, for one, am always drawn to darker, character-driven movies. I much prefer to wade deep into a movie, rather than look at film for escapism. So, regardless of whether I am a Grieving Dad or not (and I am), I would have seen Manchester by the Sea. I think it is an excellent film with a raw, beautiful script, and compelling performances. That being said, it was hard to watch. On one hand there is comfort in knowing there are other members of this horrible club no one wants to be a part of with good reason. However, I also felt a sadness that someone else – even a Hollywood writer – could understand or experience the depths of misery that we sometimes feel as the parents left behind. As a filmgoer, I deem it accolade-worthy. As a Grieving Dad, I found it cathartic, I guess – satisfying in that my lows are not abnormal. I liked the ending very much. He knew his limits. He found a way to stay alive much in the same way I (and many of us) found our way to get through every day, maybe smile, maybe laugh a whole bunch, maybe be willing to risk it all again and bring children into the world, and all the same, knowing that despair is something to live with, not leave behind. Ah, were we all that fortunate. Grief becomes a part of who we are. That’s what I think Manchester by the Sea manifested so eloquently. Thanks for indulging just one guy’s movie review.

  • Gary

    When I first learned of the movie and its premise, I was deeply drawn to see it. We lost our daughter Kathleen to a rare brain tumor almost 7 years ago but it still feels like it was 7 hours ago. Whereas my wife was more inclined to forego seeing it to avoid yet another depressing reminder of our loss & its impact, I instead felt compelled to see it hoping someone and something could capture the depth of my lingering sadness. Part of me in fact wanted to witness others in attendance feel emotionally drained and upset. They did and I wanted to advise them that what they felt was but a fraction of the despair those who have actually lost a child actually feel. Day in and day day out. Thus I left the theater grateful for seeing it but deflated later that particular night thinking that while others went home to happy intact units I instead was part of a broken one. I’m resolved to my fate and am committed to doing my best to keep things afloat emotionally and financially for my wife and other daughter. I accept my survival mechanism of remaining even keeled while acting the “sad clown”. I understand that the “black dog” will chase me consistently and at unforeseen times. But all that being said, I was told once that “Kathleen is not coming back to you but rather you’re going to her” and I try to comport myself with dignity, humor and consistency knowing that someday I’ll be reunited with a little 10 year old angel who’ll wrap her arms around me with a love that is rare and special. And we’ll laugh, tell stories and make up for lost time. The movie, with its “depressing” content, was actually a necessary exercise in emotional depth and despair. This father was glad he saw it. Gary

  • Dmoore004

    Spot on.

  • My wife was telling me the same thing when we were looking at renting it from a RedBox about people said it was depressing. But when we watched it, we understood and connected with the story. I remember thinking about couple parts to myself and saying “oh that is so true”. Watching the movie was like being in a room of people who also lost children and having the level of understanding nobody else can unless you belong to this club. I haven’t read, but imagine a lot of people were disappointed about the way it ended, but to me it made total sense.

    • It absolutely made sense. But I could see how most people wound find the ending empty and depressing.