MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (KENNETH LONERGAN)
Lee (Casey Affleck) is that guy who you see everday in your building fixing and doing all those day to day tasks that you hate doing. He’s a handyman. He returns home to Manchester after getting a call that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) is in the hospital. By the time he gets there it’s already too late and now he’s been given the guardianship of his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
Lee comes home with a somber tone. He looks to help get all things done that needs to get done. At this point he discovers his upcoming status with his nephew and things change. It’s obvious as we move scene to scene that there’s something that pushed him away from the town. We’re treated to spaced out flashbacks of when Lee was a happier person. He drank, fished, and had a happy life. He was still, for the most part, him, but he was home. As the current day scenario plays out and his past is revealed to us we’re left there mouth agape ready to pour out with empathy for him, just as we are for Patrick with the loss of his father.
The film plays itself with varying degrees of emotions. There are scenes that are played for high emotions where we just want to hug these guys; others which are played for weird awkward laughs and it’s the best. This film puts itself in pole position to be everyone’s favourite movie of 2016. It has the emotional depth and solidity to keep you rapt up in the story playing out in front of you but does more than enough to make you want these people to not have these tragedies happening to them. By the time the movie is over we feel like the other Uncle/Aunt that wants to ask them over for dinner and make it all better.
THE BAD BATCH (ANA LILY AMIRPOUR)
Much like Escape from New York and Mad Max we enter the film as our main character, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is marked and dropped off at the now ungoverned world of “The Bad Batch”. That being those people the world has deemed dysfunctional to society and better off being outside of it. In this world two factions rage on trying to continue to exist. There is Miami Man (Jason Mamoa) leading the Bridge People, the cannibals who are steroided survivalists who feed on the muscle of their fellow outcasts, and The Dream (Keanu Reeves) who leads Comfort, which is all about partying and being as drugged out of your mind for the sake of providing comfort to him and his people.
As Arlen enters this world she is captured and loses her right arm and leg to these cannibals. She quickly escapes and finds her way to comfort. She finds herself entangled between the lives of The Dream and Miami Man and in a weird post-apocalyptic romance where blood, guts, bullets and knives get involved.
This is one of those films that feels it could’ve been a lot better. Maybe it’s because there’s so much already out there in this genre that we can’t help but place our own knowledge of it onto the film and at the same time I’m not certain where the exact faults lie. The film does a lot to bring the world to life and the characters feel right; however there’s an intangible thing standing between me really saying I enjoyed the film.
OLD STONE (JOHNNY MA)
Lao Shi (Gang Chen) is an honourable man who works as a taxi driver. He is in an accident and injures a motor cyclist. In a panic and a hope to save this man’s life he helps get him to the hospital quickly. However, due to a failure to follow the correct company procedure he is left with this man’s mounting medical bills as he stays in the hospital longer and longer in a coma.
This film remains one of the gems of the festival. So much of our bureaucratic and civilized society suffers from the desensitization of actually having humans connect and doing good deeds. So much of things we go, “that policy is place to deal with it” and when the policy fails we blame that and not the people. Here is a man who does something good and is proven that if he did not do it a man would be dead. Then the policy turns around and punishes him for doing something that is inherently good. Add in the fact that Lao Shi is a stubborn man who sticks by his word that he would continue to cover the man’s mounting medical bills hoping that the system would eventually come to his aid and agree that he was good but not liable.
Even though what I presented above sounds like a dramatic story it’s played like a psychological thriller. We watch on as Lao Shi stretches his finances and his life trying to figure out how far he can really go the keep himself morally good the way he believes he is. We watch on looking for those moments when he’s tested. The film delivers a tight 90 minute punch that I can’t undersell. It’s fantastic and deserves to be shown to all as it asks you how good a person would you be being faced with a similar choice. Would you leave him to bleed out on the road doing what society tells you is “enough” or would you help and do what is humanistically right and good.