Hidden Meanings Behind the Movie,
"Manchester by the Sea"
Reviewed by Joy Ramos Davis

Synopsis: After the sudden death of his older brother, Lee Chandler was made the legal trustee for the care of his teenage nephew, Patrick.  Unprepared for the responsibility, Lee was still grieving from a personal tragedy that compelled him to create distance from family and friends.  He was forced to return to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts to oversee his nephew and deal with the unresolved pains from his past.

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews."  I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review the drama, "Manchester by the Sea."

Serving as a handyman for apartment dwellers, Lee Chandler carved out a quiet and solitary existence for himself in Quincy, Massachusetts, away from family and friends.  He was just an irritable loner, suffering in silence from the "wounds" of his past.  

When George, a family friend, called to say that Lee's older brother had a heart attack on the boat, he headed immediately for the hospital.  Joseph had died suddenly from Congestive Heart Failure.  He left behind his 16-year-old son Patrick, a boat with motor problems, and house in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Based on the teachings of Inna Segal, Creator of Visionary Intuitive Healing, every disease has a contributing, emotional component to it.  Congestive Heart Failure is associated with not listening to the heart.  This was for Lee, an outer, symbolic message to pay attention to what he'd been ignoring for too long, the deeper sensitivities of his heart.  He kept a "safe" emotional distance from others, pushing them away with outbursts of anger and hostility.  

Avoidance Creates Attraction

While at a reading of his brother's will, Lee was told that he is now the legal guardian of his nephew.  Leaving Patrick in the care of his alcoholic, drug addicted mother was not an option.  Not only was Joseph's death a total inconvenience, but having to care for Patrick left him feeling imposed upon and more irritated.  It's not what he signed up for. 

Lee's dilemma is an example of the universal "Law of Opposites" in action.  Whatever you avoid is the very thing that you'll magnetize strongly to you because of your feeling attachment to it.  By choosing emotional and physical separation, Lee was forced back into the family fold by way of an emergency.

The Gift That Trauma Brings You

For Lee, the shock of taking legal guardianship of his nephew triggered a traumatic memory with debilitating feelings attached.  It was about the sudden loss of his three, small children.  He replayed in his mind what happened years ago.  After a booze and drug-fueled party at home with friends, Lee couldn't sleep afterwards.  He decided to run an errand at the local market.  But before leaving, he lit up the fireplace to warm the house.  On the walk back, Lee found his home engulfed in flames.  It was from neglecting to place a screen by the fireplace.  His wife, Randi, was alive, but hysterical from the loss.  She placed all the blame on him for burning their children to death. 

At the police station, he was questioned by authorities to explain what happened.  When he was freed to go, Lee quickly snatched a policeman's gun with the intent on killing himself.  The officers quickly moved in to subdue him from doing it.

Chuck Spezzano, creator of the Psychology of Vision, teaches that every trauma offers a choice.  A gift is hidden in every trauma, but it takes a deeper vision to see it.  If we do not receive the gift, the trauma itself will become part of our defenses, part of the character armor we use to keep pain away from us.  Our willingness to see the gift allows us to take down the armor.  The freed up energy can then be used for our health, vitality, happiness and fun.

Emotionally Cold Inside

The funeral director informed Lee and Patrick that burial of the body would need to be delayed for several months, offering to preserve Joseph in the freezer.  The cold, Winter ground needs to thaw out first.  

While at home, Patrick opened the refrigerator freezer, fumbling with the frozen chicken.  He had a panic attack on the spot that left him crying. It was a painful reminder of his father being held in a freezer.

Dream Interpreter Michael Sheridan teaches that waking dreams are symbols on the outer, just like the ones given in a dream while asleep.  A burial is often associated with putting something to rest, like an issue in your life.  The burial was delayed, giving them the message that they needed to put to rest the deeper issues of their grief, but can't for a while.  Even their feeling emotionally cold and stuck was represented by the cold ground that needed thawing and the freezer.  

Too Busy to Grieve

Lee's management style allowed his nephew to be like a feral, free-range teenager with little responsibilities.   Patrick indulged in being a two-timing playboy and practicing with his band mates.  He was vehemently opposed to his uncle's plans of relocating them to Boston. 

Typical of those who distract themselves from grieving, they exhibited Short-Term Energy Releasing Behaviors, explained Ann Allen, a Grief Recovery Specialist.  Patrick coped through his pursuits of getting pleasure by being promiscuous with his two girlfriends; playing guitar in a band; and just hanging out with friends.  As for Lee, he busied himself by taking over the home and parenting duties, while arranging for his brother's funeral. 

Chance to Resolve the Past

After seeing Randi at the funeral, pregnant and with a new boyfriend, Lee looked downcast and somber.  It was a lot for him to take in. 

Randi's pregnancy on the outer symbolized her birthing a new life for herself.  She moved on from grieving the difficult loss of her children and marriage.  Lee could not do the same for himself.  He simply walked away from her attempt to reconcile and express sad remorse for saying bad things to him in the past.  It was to Lee, an unspeakable tragedy.  He was closed off to her, including other women and their flirtatious advances towards him.

Emotionally Unavailable Mother

Patrick arranged to sit down for lunch with his mother, Elise, and her devoutly Christian fiance, Jeffrey, in the nearby town of Essex.  This was Patrick's chance to fully reconnect and possibly live together. 

Lee had no respect for Elise.  She proved herself to be an absentee mother with a drinking and drug problem.  

During lunch, Elise was sober at the table.  In a nervous and impatient way, she wanted normalcy with her son.  When Elise excused herself to go in the kitchen, Jeffrey attended to her for fear that she just relapsed by drinking again.  The visitation left Patrick feeling despondent.  He read the long email from Jeffrey.  In the message, Patrick needed to get his permission first before he can see his mother.  Jeffrey's intrusiveness in the guise of good intentions, dashed any hopes of ever living with her.

As an addict, Elise attracted two men in her life who were willing to be her caretaker in a co-dependent relationship.  She was needy, so they acted as emotional gatekeepers, even keeping her from having to attend to adult responsibilities, like caring for her son so that Elise can remain emotionally unavailable and infantile.

Surfing Your Inner Sea of Emotions

While at home on the couch, Lee dozed off to see his daughter in a dream.  She casually asked, "Did you see me burning?"  The question startled him into waking up immediately, just in time to notice the pan of food burning on the stovetop.  He cried out of grief to let some of the pain go.

Recovery from grief requires that you welcome the feeling.  By warmly welcoming any difficult emotions that arise, you are acknowledging and giving it full expression so it can freely leave you because every emotion really does want to leave the body.  Resisting a bad feeling prevents that.

Self-help expert Raphael Cushnir has helped many to experience emotional freedom.  Neurofeedback studies have found that the primitive part of our brain treats a challenging emotion like footsteps approaching you in a dark alley.  It feels threatening, so we resist.  If you were to ride the feeling like a surfer on a wave as it crests and falls, you'll be left with a softer, expansive feeling.  This is a form of warmly welcoming difficult emotions or any tension in the body for it to leave gently. 

Time to Move On

Lee made decisive steps to move on with his life.  He will take the janitorial position in Boston.  Through a special arrangement with longtime friends, George and his wife, they agreed to legally adopt Patrick so that he can remain in Manchester-by-the-Sea to finish his schooling.  When he turns 18, Patrick is able to assume ownership of his family home or sell it.  As for the boat, it would be hired out when the summer is over. 

Out of love for his uncle, he asks him, "Why can't you stay?"

Lee replied by saying, "I can't beat it.  I can't beat it.  I'm sorry." 

By Springtime, they had the burial.  Lee gave assurance to his nephew that he'll still be a fixture in his life.  Patrick is free to come over and visit him anytime in Boston when he gets a new place that will have a guest room. 

Any emotional pressure to be Patrick's caretaker was lifted, allowing Lee to enjoy his nephew's company.  They had fun again, fishing on the boat, just like old times.


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