Manchester by The Sea – ” I can’t beat it.”


The film tells the story of Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck) who once lived in Manchester; but moved away from his home when tragedy struck.  He is now forced to return to his hometown to take care of his 16 year old nephew Patrick.

Spoilers ahead.  The problem for Lee however is that a number of years earlier, he had accidentally forgot to put the fire grill on the fireplace.  This little mistake led to a burning log falling out of the fireplace, burning up his home, killing his children, and destroying his marriage.

We don’t know this little piece of information as we watch the film, but we see Lee struggle.  We see him unable to look his ex-wife in the eyes.  We see him trying to be there for his nephew but simply being unable to do so. His grief goes too deep.

The story comes to a climax when Patrick, Lee’s nephew, just simply asks Lee why he can’t take care of him.  Lee, looks at him and says “I can’t beat it.”

I don’t think I ever realized how important that little line was.  There are some things in life which cannot be changed.  There are things in life we cannot “beat.”

As the first stanza in the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer goes, “God help me to accept the things I cannot change…”  We must simply accept the cross that has been given us and ask the Lord for help in carrying it.

This message seems so counter cultural.  Our culture teaches us to seek therapy.  To find a way to break through.  To take up a new hobby etc etc etc.  But what if there is no going back?  What if there is nothing you can do to fix that incurable wound inside of you?

It seems a bit defeatist.  It feels this way for me perhaps because the culture of competition and endless possibility is so deeply rooted in me.  But I think the approach is actually to live in the truth.  It is to live in the truth of who we are, where we are broken, and how in the end only God can really be there for us.

Raj Vijayakumar works at the Villa St. Martin in Montreal helping with retreat work

  • flyingfather
    Posted at 04:56h, 17 January Reply

    Having met Raj personally – how wise to point out something we find so difficult to accept: “There are somethings we cannot repair” – damage has been done. As the cliché goes: Life’s issues are not problems to be solved, but mysteries to be lived.

  • Nancy
    Posted at 06:42h, 17 January Reply

    I too understand this feeling of griefs

  • Nancy
    Posted at 06:43h, 17 January Reply

    I too understand this feeling of griefs very insightful

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