Best-edited sequence of the year?

Image copyright Amazon Studios / K Period Media

If you’re a director or editor, you must watch Manchester by the Sea (4 ½ stars on 0-5 scale), if only for a 15-minute segment in the middle of the film (the 49-minute to the 64-minute mark).  I won’t ruin the surprise except to say it’s when we learn about the haunted past of the main character, Lee Chandler, played remarkably by Casey Affleck.

From the flashbacks to the juxtaposition of images to the use of sound, it’s a clinic in editing. The cinematography, acting and writing all deserve praise, of course, but the cuts and dissolves weren’t in the shooting script. This is the work of a master editor – in this case, Jennifer Lame – working sometimes closely, sometimes not, with director Kenneth Lonergan in an almost Sergei Eisenstein-like collage of mood, music and storytelling. The rest of the movie isn’t as compelling, and Lame’s editing later in the film (or perhaps Lonergan’s writing) makes the disappearance/death of Lee’s father unnecessarily ambiguous. But Manchester is still one of the top five films of 2016 and the best of the nine nominees for the best-picture Oscar. I hope it wins.

For more on Lame’s editing, check out this Indiewire article.

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