Casey Affleck “is on the precipice of wider glory…with his much praised lead performance as a grief-stricken janitor in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea (Roadside, 11.18),” writes N.Y. Times award-season columnist Cara Buckley. “The movie, and Mr. Affleck’s turn, drew gasps at this year’s big film festivals, along with awards chatter; the accolades heaped on Mr. Affleck included ‘the performance of his career.’

“All of which makes him squirm, or so he says. ‘The idea of someone not liking me or not liking my movie was always easier to deal with than someone really liking it,’ Mr. Affleck, 41, said in an interview last month in Manhattan. ‘I don’t know why.'”

Emily Andrews photo of Casey Affleck, copied from Cara Buckley interview piece in yesterday’s N.Y. Times.

I’ll tell him why. Most of what sounds like praise is gushy and fleeting and probably insincere to some extent, but dislike or disapproval are fairly trustworthy, at least over the short haul.

The essence of Affleck’s Lee Chandler character in Manchester is an inability to put aside a painful episode, to forgive one’s self, to move on. Some people don’t relate to a character like Lee because we’re all committed to a positive, make-it-better attitude — healing, self-improvement, growing, opening doors. But everybody has something bad that they’ve done (or have failed to do) that they can’t forgive themselves for. Everyone. For me it’s something I did when I was five or six, when I beat what looked to me like a snapping turtle with a stick, beating it so hard that I made the turtle’s shell bleed. I also feel pretty badly about descending into vodka abuse from ’93 to early ’96, and the shit that came out of that.

Everyone has one or two of these episodes stuck in their craw, and if you can’t relate to Lee Chandler’s plight in Manchester, you’re probably being dishonest with yourself to some extent.