Film Review – Manchester by the Sea (2016)


Title – Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Director – Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me)

Cast – Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick

Plot – When his older brother Joe (Chandler) passes away, inwardly tormented maintenance man Lee Chandler (Affleck) must head back to his home town of Manchester to see to Joe’s affairs and look after his 16 year old nephew Patrick (Hedges).

“My heart was broken, and I know yours is broken, too”

Review by Eddie on 7/02/2017

Filled with a quiet, haunting power that will only make itself wholly manifest long after the credits of Kenneth Lonergan’s masterful study of grief, loss and love have rolled, Manchester by the Sea isn’t ever the film you expect it to become but it’s within these moments of surprise and unpredictability that the real genius of this truly poignant drama come bearing down upon the unsuspecting watcher.

Originally developed by Matt Damon (who was set to star and direct but only stays on as producer here) and fellow actor John Krasiniski, Manchester was given to Lonergan whose previous film was the underseen and horrifically released Margaret, and saw the talented writer/director of You Can Count On Me at a crossroads in his career where it seemed as though the brilliant wordsmith was turning his sole focus into the theatre scene.

We can be thankful Damon and Krasinski sought out Lonergan, as his ability to craft a believable and real human drama is at the forefront of this moving study of Casey Affleck’s tormented maintenance man Lee Chandler, an examination that gives Lonergan the chance to slowly but methodically build up his tale and unlock the broken nature of its leading man played memorably by a career-best Affleck.

So good in The Assassination of Jesse James and the underrated Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck’s little brother showcases here an ample display of his talent to bring broken characters to vivid life. It’s far from a showy performance; there are rarely moments designed for Affleck to do so but he finds power in the small details, the human details and when Lee shows signs of what lies within it’s made all the more powerful thanks to Affleck’s turn.

Ably supported by impressive up and comer Lucas Hedges as Lee’s nephew Patrick, the always great Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife Randi and the grounding presence of Coach Taylor himself Kyle Chandler as Lee’s recently passed brother Joe, it’s perhaps too close a race to suggest this year’s Best Actor Oscar is Affleck’s but regardless of him winning the golden statue or not, this is a career defining and memorable turn.

A slow film that cares little for big moment’s (even if the films one big set piece is worth its weight in emotional gold), Manchester by the Sea won’t be everyone’s cup of dramatic tea but Lonergan’s film, that never molds or conforms itself into what’s the usual for this type of fare or to what it’s trailer’s might make it seem to be, is a cinematic treat that will only grow on you as you ponder and consider it’s many quiet yet resonant human qualities that feel far more real than is the Hollywood norm.

4 1/2 troublesome drummers out of 5

16 responses to “Film Review – Manchester by the Sea (2016)

  1. Glorious review of a glorious film. One sees so little of working class and American lives, on screen. This pulled me in and kept me involved. That Special Moment will stay with me, forever.

  2. Nicely put, Eddie. I saw this a few weeks ago and still think of it often. Truly haunting, but there are also quite a lot of humorous moments that means it’s not a depressing slog.

  3. I really want to see this film. Sometimes the quiet movies are the ones that are worth the time and effort. I can tell in the trailers that I have seen that the acting is powerful and the script is well written.

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