Anybody not think it's a great film, like so many of the critics?
I liked a lot of things about it. The basic premise was something worth exploring (a film about two deaths: an actual death, which was the framing device for the narrative, and the metaphorical one that afflicts Affleck's character, who is still burdened with going through the motions of an existence because despite being permanently hollowed by tragedy, his heart never had the decency to stop beating).
I mean, I think it had plenty of really strong aspects to it (most importantly, Affleck's performance), and it has one immortally great scene, but I feel like too many of its successes are in what it avoided, not so much in what it actually did. It's not based on a true story, so the thing is entirely fictional. That being said, the basic plot could easily be a Lifetime movie. So kudos to the director for not going down that road, but you get the idea that we were never in danger of that happening.
It also never became schmaltzy or cheaply "Hollywoody" in its resolution, so that's also a win. But again, I think the whole point was to avoid that kind of resolution, so probably not all that big a win there.
It avoided being too "indie' and for that I give the director credit. This kind of film could easily have become really annoying on many levels and in many scenes, and I give it serious credit for not doing that. It lightly skirts the edges in a couple of ways, but not enough to be significant negatives (really, we're going to do that whole white blue-collar guys' thing with the New England accents again? And we're going to include totally ancillary conversations about shahks and Stah Trek just in case you weren't getting it? Also, the score didn't really work and at times seemed too self-consciously dramatic, which was at odds with the rest of the film).
I give it props for the realism and for all of the performances - especially Affleck's which was fantastic and which should get him an Oscar nomination.
I guess the major problem I had with the film is that, due to it being fully fictional, the Big Event that killed Affleck's spirit is necessarily manufactured . But if the point of the film is to show how regular people deal with tragedies and life's misfortunes and make the protagonist such a Blue Collar "Everyman" and so purposely avoid anything resembling a Hollywood style resolution, why make the Big Event something so remote from the lives of regular people?
The thing that happened to Affleck's character that made him what he now is, is not something that anybody could actually relate to because virtually nobody has ever done it, or anything like it - it's something that must be imagined. But the grief being experienced by the character is not supposed to be unrelatable; the audience is supposed to be able to relate and understand the character. This mostly happens, and it's to Affleck's and the director's credit, but that still doesn't erase the fact that it was this fluke event that nobody can relate to, that was the cause. It's almost like a film where, say, the backstory is that the main character once cut off a mob guy in traffic, and instead of just saying "sorry" they argue and then the mob guy hunts down and kills the entire family and friends of the guy who cut him off, but the film is not about the guy seeking retribution against the mob or about how he overcomes his loss. It's just about showing the affects of the loss, insofar as how it affects his day-to-day. Wouldn't that feel incredibly incomplete in some significant ways? Sure, having your whole family and friends killed by a mafia guy because you wouldn't apologize is probably a huge weight that would destroy most people, but is that really something that should be used as a backstory for a realism film about grief and loss? Wouldn't a simple divorce or some other more relatable event have sufficed?
I guess this didn't bother the many critics who are giving this 5 stars, but for now it keeps it at about a 3.5 for me.