Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Manchester by the Sea is an engrossing character-drama, filled with stellar acting performances from the cast.
In Manchester by the Sea, Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a janitor/handyman for a building where he goes around and fixes pipes and unclogs toilets for the tenants. Lee proves that he is more than capable of handling all the tenants’ concerns, but receives criticism from them, concerning his rude behavior. Broken by a horrific accident that happened years prior, Lee lives an isolated life, staying in his apartment alone and drinking alone in bars.
One day, Lee receives a call from the hospital that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) is dead. Lee then travels back to Manchester to handle the funeral arrangements and talk with a lawyer about Joe’s will. At the lawyer’s office, Lee discovers that Joe named him the guardian of his son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Being shocked by the news, on top of encountering old faces such as his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams), Lee battles the prospect of being Patrick’s guardian, struggling to connect with his nephew as well as ruminating on painful memories.
Will Lee be able to connect with Patrick, and will he be able to confront the painful memories that torture him?
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is an engrossing drama, filled with stellar acting performances. Before the release of the film, Manchester by the Sea underwent many changes in its pre-production and productions phases. Actor Matt Damon (The Bourne film series, Good Will Hunting), who is also a producer on the film, was slated to direct and star as Lee Chandler in the film. Because of scheduling conflicts, Damon relinquished the role of director to Kenneth Lonergan and the lead role to Casey Affleck. Even though Manchester by the Sea would have been an excellent choice for Damon’s directorial debut, Lonergan proves that he was the perfect choice to write and direct this film.
The film’s biggest highlight is Lonergan’s screenplay. Lonergan structures the events to unfold from Lee’s point-of-view, while flashbacks show details of his past life. Lonergan successfully balances the present moment scenes with flashback sequences. To that end, the film unfolds in a natural way, showcasing revelations throughout the film, instead of at the very end.
On a directorial level, Lonergan relies on viewers to pay attention as the movie progresses. In the film, the flashback sequences unfold without any mention of change in time, giving viewers the opportunity to figure out the time and setting of each scene.
Casey Affleck, who has made a name for himself with movies Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James, delivers a subdued performance as Lee. Affleck conveys a lot of emotions from his subtle character expressions. By doing this, Affleck makes Lee relatable to audience viewers, giving them opportunities to sympathize with the character as the movie progresses. Affleck’s work in this film is awards-worthy, proving again that he is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. Michelle Williams stars as Lee’s ex-wife Randi. In her limited amount of screen time, she gives a good performance, playing well off Casey Affleck. Kyle Chandler, as Joe, is great in the film. As Joe, Chandler conveys dignity, fear, and empathy. Watching Joe be a good influence on Lee makes it harder for viewers to accept his death. With Chandler in the role, he makes Joe’s death even more palpable.
Manchester by the Sea is an engrossing character drama from start to finish. The film boasts an impressive cast of actors who deliver great, memorable performances. Manchester by the Sea runs 137 minutes and, as of December 29, 2016, is playing nationwide. Go to the theater and check it out before it leaves.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
- First Image: Huffington Post
- Second Image: Collider
- Third Image: The New York Times
- Fourth Image: IndieWire