Don’t be surprised if you hear the title “Manchester by the Sea” being bandied about a lot at awards time. Filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking drama about loss and grief is a skillfully written and impeccably acted ensemble piece. Casey Affleck plays a working class man who struggles with a past tragedy when he returns to his Massachusetts hometown for his brother’s funeral. I’ll warn you, it’s extremely bleak, but it’s also poignant and affecting.
“Nocturnal Animals” is no exercise in sweetness and light, either. Celebrated fashion designer Tom Ford turns filmmaker, training his artistic eye on twin stories of revenge. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal lead a great cast in a very dark and violent tale that one could argue deserves an NC-17 rating, although it’s rated R. If art is meant to disturb, “Nocturnal Animals” more than qualifies.
Jessica Chastain stars in “Miss Sloane,” an involving political suspense thriller about a hard-edged Washington, D.C. lobbyist who takes on a seemingly invincible organization. Chastain is solid as always and the setup is provocative, but the wheels nearly fall off when the plot takes an absurd turn near the film’s finale.
“The Eyes of My Mother” is an elegantly shot, genuinely unnerving black-and-white horror film about a disturbed girl whose rural farmhouse becomes the site of some grisly crimes. This well-executed creepfest is only for those with a tolerance for truly ghoulish material.
“Office Christmas Party” is probably exactly what you’d expect, a broad, raunchy comedy about a holiday mixer that devolves into an orgy of debauchery. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman lead a skillful cast that does their best to wring some shameless laughs from the bawdy material. Their efforts, however, are hit-and-miss.