From writer and director Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is an emotional tale of grief, loss, heartache and connection between two men trying to navigate their way through life during a difficult period.
Lee Chandler, played excellently by Casey Affleck, is a handyman and janitor residing in Boston, who is called back to his former home of Manchester upon hearing the news of his brother’s passing. Lee informs Patrick, his nephew, about the loss and soon learns that his brother wanted Lee to be his guardian in the event of his passing, which is a request Lee is reluctant to accept due to a personal tragedy that occurred in Manchester years ago.
On paper, Manchester by the Sea doesn’t look like much but when you see it for yourself, you get it! What makes Manchester by the Sea so powerful is that it’s a story audiences can easily connect with because it tackles a remarkably human subject that connects with everyone in all walks of life: how people deal with death and the emotional roller coaster that comes with it.
Watching Casey Affleck’s character trying to handle his own grief for his brother’s passing, trying to be a surrogate father to his nephew that is well-in-the-middle of adolescence and adulthood, facing his past in a town that haunts him, just trying to stomach and endure all of the swirling, maddening range of emotions is just awesome! Casey Affleck takes no prisoners in his performance; he’s unpredictable, he’s intense, he’s outstanding through and through.
His co-star, Lucas Hedges is practically on equal footing with Affleck. Patrick is dealing with the loss in his own way, trying to keep up appearances at school, with his girlfriends, his band, his hockey team, adamant in wanting to maintain his father’s boat as opposed to selling it, wrestling with the decision to tell his mother the news, constantly butting heads with Lee who wants to take him back to Boston rather than stay in Manchester and developing a kinship with Lee throughout the film because he is the closest person to his late-father he can find and Hedges does a tremendous job with his role.
If there is a third excellent performer in Manchester by the Sea, it’s Michelle Williams, who portrays Lee’s ex-wife Randi. The scene where Randi and Lee meet on the street and Randi tries to make amends for what happened in the past, the event that led up to their marriage dissolving, she is completely authentic in her emotional moment and it is a powerful moment.
The supporting cast of Kyle Chandler, Ben O’Brien, C.J. Wilson, Tom Kemp, Ellie Teeves, Matthew Broderick, Anna Baryshnikov, Kara Hayward, Robert Sella, Tom Kemp, Gretchen Mol were all fundamentally sound in their roles.
Jody Lee Lipes beautifully shot this movie, Jennifer Lame’s editing was rough in parts but overall was fine, especially the sequence where Lee flashed back to what happened that caused him to leave Manchester, while in the present reading Joe’s will, suggesting that he come back to Manchester to raise Patrick, Lesley Barber’s score was peculiar and I’ll leave it at that, and I can’t say much else about the production design, art direction, costumes and much else.
I didn’t expect to like Manchester by the Sea as much as I did but I liked it because it’s a movie that people can connect with and I credit Kenneth Lonergan for crafting a movie that is very universal, very deep and resonating because this is a movie that everyone can relate to, no matter your background.
I do believe that this movie is a contender for many accolades to come, particularly in the Best Actor category; Casey Affleck is amazing in this movie and I encourage audiences to see Manchester by the Sea if the opportunity presents itself. It’s a quiet movie that is quietly talked about but the quiet truly speaks volumes if I do say so myself.