Manchester by the Sea is a 2016 American drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges. The cinematography was done by Jody Lee Lipes.
In this film, the lead character was a lone man who went through a lot of trauma in his life. So, he chose to live and work alone most of the time. More over, the theme of this film is very sensitive and grounded to the core of reality . This feel of realism and sensitivity was conveyed to the audience by the great performances of all the artists in the film.
The reason to mention these things is the cinematography in this film did a fine job in establishing the happenings in a way to make the audience feel exactly how the actors in the scenes feel. Starting with the lead character, Lee Chandler is basically a depressed lone man who almost gave up on life. His loneliness and his boring daily life style were shown in such a way that the viewers can understand his emotions.
This was achieved by giving proper spacing in the frames. The frames may appear to have so much empty space. But, i think the space was kept for some really good reasons.
In most of the scenes that include only Lee chandler (lead), the shots were wide and the subject was placed in the mid ground. The background and fore ground were sometimes empty or filled with less details. In this way, the loneliness of the character was perfectly established. More over, the actions done by Lee chandler were always slow and boring. The feel of boring was also conveyed with these unusual spaces in the frames. Whenever, the frames were like this, the respective scene was prolonged for sometime without any cuts. I think this was a brilliant idea to make the audience notice every detail in the frame.
This spacing was also used in places where the director wanted to show a overall picture of the happenings rather than focusing on every individual’s actions. Since, the frame is well spaced, the audience focus will be on all the things happenings in the frame including the actions that’s irrelevant to the scene but necessary to establish a realistic feel.
For an another obvious reason, this spacing was used which is for conveying the calmness in the scene. In this film, there were many scenes that happen in a boat. For these scenes, a long shot was used in the middle of the sea with characters in the center of the frame. This type of shots beautifully conveys the calmness of the situation.
You may wonder some the above reasons sound obvious for why people use long shots and spaces in the scenes, generally. But, the specialty in this film is that the use of these type of shots and spaces in right amount and at the perfect situations which really uplifted the film’s theme. Watch the film and you’ll know why 🙂