Manchester by the Sea.
I’m really trying to catch as many movies in this final stretch of 2016 as I can, so that when I put together my Best Of list, it’s as thorough as possible. With Manchester by the Sea sitting in the high 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought it’d be an important one to catch.
We follow Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) on the day that he finds out his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died. It’s up to Lee to take care of Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and figure out who can take care of him. See, we slowly get flashbacks revealing why Lee has left the small town of Manchester and why he doesn’t believe he should take care of Patrick, in a gripping and emotional journey. We have Michelle Williams as his ex-wife.
This movie is both written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
I’m glad I caught Manchester by the Sea because it’s amazing. It’s long, coming in at 2 hours+ but it’s packed with moments and revelations, never really leaving me to ponder the time. It’s anchored by Casey Affleck, who will no longer be referred to as “the other Affleck” following this film. He’s complex and angry and sad and it all feels absolutely authentic.
I was prepared for this movie to be somber, and while it does have plenty of emotional moments, it’s also bright in unexpected ways. Flashbacks show Lee and a young Patrick bonding over fishing. Beautiful snowy fields and colorful city streets are everywhere. It’s a great looking film, even when our characters are in the middle of tragedy. I laughed often, as this movie makes a point to emphasize the importance of humor as a coping method.
The structure of the film helps to keep this movie quickly moving. Things are revealed throughout the movie which make everything make sense. Flashbacks of Lee and his brother, flashbacks to Lee and his wife and a seemingly happy life that they had together… The structure is perfect and used to parallel two moments in the best of ways.
While Affleck is great, young Lucas Hedges is great here as well. Feeling like a real teenager struggling with coming to grips with this tragedy. Lonergan manages to write this character as a relatable high-schooler but also as a perfect foil to our lead character. Their priorities are never the same, which is frustratingly realistic.
What doesn’t work?
This is another one of those cases where I have very little bad to say. It’s fascinating and intriguing and beautiful yet tragic. The performances are stellar and most of you should enjoy this, even though it might be emotional at times.
Casey Affleck delivers one of the best performances of the year, subtle and so much to read into, which makes this movie enthralling. The emotional highs and lows are incredible, with a fulfilling payoff at the end, in a season when many movies fail to land the closure of their film. It’s tough to watch sometimes but overall a fantastic journey, one of the best of the year.