Lee Chandler is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city.
His brother’s heart has given out suddenly, and he’s been named guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy.
Brad (Guest) – I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing about it, besides the fact that it starred Casey Affleck. I’m happy that this was the case, as I was very pleasantly surprised.
Let me start with the casting. Casey Affleck is great as Lee Chandler, a down on his luck Janitor, whose brother passing away sets the films plot into motion. Even though she receives top billing, Michelle Williams only has about 10 minutes of screentime (in which she shines, thick Boston accent an all). There is even a surprise cameo from Matthew Broderick, and one from Heather Burns, founder of one of the internet’s favourite date related memes:
For me, though, Lucas Hedges is the actor who shines most in this film. Playing Patrick Chandler, Lee’s nephew, Hedges does an amazing job at portraying the teenager who has just lost his father, and the interplay between him and Affleck is brilliant to watch.
Even though it is billed as a drama (of which there is PLENTY), there are still some genuinely funny moments in the film, mainly due to the aforementioned interplay between Affleck and Hedges. I’m happy that this is the case, because 2h30m of straight up doom and gloom would’ve made this film a tough watch.
I had a few gripes with the film, but these mainly came within the last third. The many flashback scenes always came as quite a surprise, and it often took me a few seconds to realise that it was even a flashback to begin with. All of a sudden, Lee’s appearance would be slightly altered from one scene to another, and my brain needed a few seconds to process what was actually happening. This did slightly take me out of the experience, but once my slow brain comprehended what was happening, all was well again. The final third of the film did feel a bit rushed to me, as if they didn’t really know how to end it. When the film did end, I got the sense that my fellow cinema-goers all felt the same (That’s it!?). There’s no twist, no dramatic ending, it just sort of… ends out of nowhere.
Overall, this is a film that felt very authentic to me. I felt as if I knew the small town of Manchester by the Sea by the end of the film. The characters all felt very real, and this was definitely due to the brilliant actors cast.
Oscar worthy? Not really. If not for the sub-par final third and some editing issues, this would definitely score higher in my books, but because of it, I give it a 7/10.
Caryn (Guest) – The beautiful thing about grief is that it is difficult to explain, it manifests in different ways and causes distinct reactions from people. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is an excellent exploration as to what grief means for different people, told in a narrative style that is both unique and utterly breathtaking.
Manchester By the Sea tells the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) who returns to his hometown of Manchester-By-The-Sea after the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and he has been made sole guardian of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). This forces Lee to simultaneously deal with the pain after losing his brother, parenting a teenage, wiith being back in his hometown from where he was shunned and what happened between him and his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams).
The wonder of this film is in the small, understated moments, you almost have to look closely in order to see. Each of the characters are well developed and fleshed out, that you almost feel as if you know them personally. Even the deceased character of Joe, is well-rounded that you want to mourn with Lee and Patrick at the loss of such a great man.
Casey Affleck’s performance has been hyped about since the film was first screened and it is well deserved, his performance is so subtle and understated but each time you look at him you can see the mourning and pain on his face. It is simple for an actor to gain praise for a loud and over-the-top performance but to convince the audience of grief with just one’s quiet demeanor is a feat of its own. Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams were also excellent in their performances, especially Hedges as a newcomer, holding his own against these seasoned veterans.
Manchester By The Sea is ultimately a story about family, grief and second chances. It’s realistic, it’s gritty and it’s brave. You will leave the cinema feeling sad as if you too were part of the family and are sharing in their grief. It is a beautiful story and a worthwhile watch.
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