Pick of the week: “Manchester by the Sea” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Kenneth Lonergan justifiably won Best Original Screenplay for this achingly sad, acutely observed drama about a blocked-off man (Casey Affleck) who returns to his hometown and the scene of an immense tragedy that he can’t get past. What saves the viewer from total despair is the humanity of the performances and Lonergan’s writing, which offers empathy and forgiveness even to those who don’t deserve it or can’t accept it.
“Denial” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. This fact-based drama, about a Jewish studies professor (Rachel Weisz) battling a wily Holocaust denier (Timothy Spall) in a British court, could have been a tidy legal drama. Instead, in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it has gained new urgency, reminding of the importance of actual truths.
“Christine” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Rebecca Hall is terrific in this true story of a local TV reporter in Florida in the 1970s who killed herself on-camera during a newscast. The dread that builds in the film to its inescapable ending is almost too much to take, but Hall gives a sympathetic, fully-layered performance as a troubled woman facing enormous pressures from outside and inside to “have it all.”
“Anvil: The Story of Anvil” (Netflix) — It’s like “This is Spinal Tap,” but real, and Canadian. This documentary looks at the former members of a ’80s metal band who just missed their big chance, but look to reunite decades later for a show in Japan (of course). It’s very funny but also sweet and weirdly inspiring.
“Lovesong” (Netflix) — My full review is here. The friendship between two women, a frazzled new mom (Riley Keough) and a free spirit (Jena Malone), grows and changes over several years in this closely observed indie drama.