Loss, Grief and Manchester by the Sea
One of my favorite exchanges I’ve had with my cousin goes like this, “Hey David, you look sad.” I go, ” Really? My bad”. We both look at each other and laugh. Anyways this is gonna be sad. My bad.
Earlier in the week I recommended Manchester by the Sea, but now I wanted to elaborate on why I’m recommending it. First, I want to talk about loss. Loss is something that we all have to go through in life. While it’s an incredibly terrible feeling, it’s one we have to carry and learn from. Loss, in this context, doesn’t just include death, but emotional loss. I think in life we lose people we want to hold close, be it our own fault or not. Losing contact with a friend, breaking up with someone and even losing yourself is a kind of loss that is hard to swallow. Losing a friend, losing a partner, losing a family member, is not only physically but emotional and that isn’t easy to describe.
From here, I want to talk about grief. As someone who has dealt with loss, both emotional and physically, I can tell you grief is something else. I’m no good at describing the feeling of grief, the best I can do is compare it to losing at boxing match. I’ve never boxed but when you’re being hit with powerful blows to the head and body, you try to dodge them but then you start to feel dizzy and slow down your movements. All those blows accumulate and the knock out punch leads you to the floor. You lie there, tired, emotionless and in pain. You wake up the next day, in the peace of your home or a nice hospital bed. You look at the ceiling. You realize the only thing you can do is get stronger and move forward. The blows to the body and head is the pain you feel from grief. Dodging the punches is denial of loss. The knock out punch is usually anger or frustration that gets released from grief. This is usually punching walls, starting a fight, breaking things, etc. It’s like rock bottom. Lying on the floor tired and beaten, is the sadness and depression that comes after the anger. Finally your home or hospital is your place of reconstruction. You start to heal. Finally, the realization is hope. Hope that you can move forward.
So what does this have to do with Manchester by the Sea? Everything. Manchester by the Sea is probably the most accurate and realistic portrayal of grief and loss I have ever seen. In film, there are certain aspects that we have to dramatize in order to appeal to the viewer. Maybe the protagonist loses their mother. You would probably see the protagonist crying their eyes out in a hospital room, calling out for their mom. This maybe true for some people but in reality emotions take time to process. There is a lot of contemplation and silence that usually is not shown in loss. A lot of human moments that are lost in the over dramatic. In this film, characters are given time to fully process their emotions, and take action on how they should feel or what they should do. In the story, a father loses his wife and kids and a son loses his father. How those events happen are completely different and their way of dealing with that is also very different but that the end of the day, they both go through their grief.
This film shows that there is two sides to every coin but the pain is the same. We are human beings not actors, we don’t live in a soap opera. Emotions are hard to control and sometimes they get the best of us. Sometimes we take a beat and ponder how to express our grief, if we do at all. That realism is something that brings me comfort. I find some solace in the fact that others go through the same loss and grief that I’ve been though. I mentioned earlier that in the end of grief is hope, which is a bittersweet conclusion. Much like after recovering from a boxing match, you get the realization that there is an opportunity to get better but not the guarantee it will. Personally, that’s all I need. The hope that things can get better.