Movies that reflect our lives are often the most emotionally effective ones. When we see characters and stories that we can relate to, we often find them to be great pieces of art. Even if we can’t relate to the events of a certain characters life, we can sympathize. Moreover, if the dialogue is real, we don’t feel like we are watching a film. Enter, Manchester By The Sea. This is a film that is so reflective of real life and the tragedies we endure, we feel like we are eavesdropping on the lives of the characters involved. Manchester By The Sea is a film that certainly doesn’t entail a happy ending. In some respects, it doesn’t have to, nor should it. This is a story of a broken man, and his family. Manchester By The Sea uses nearly everything to its advantage to craft one of the most powerful films of the decade, and one of the best films of I’ve seen in years.
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, the film stars Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick and Gretchen Mol. Manchester By The Sea follows Lee Chandler (Affleck) a chilly and unfriendly handy man working menial tasks in a group of apartment buildings in Boston. When his brother (Kyle Chandler) passes, Lee returns home to Manchester to care for his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Hedges). Along the way, Lee reunites with Randi (Williams) his ex-wife, and his late brothers alcoholic ex-wife. Throughout his time in Manchester, Lee confronts his tragic past and attempts to put the pieces of his life back together. Lonergan also writes the script for the film which was produced by Matt Damon.
This film is a master class in acting. Affleck delivers one of the most heart wrenching performances of the any in the past decade. Lee is disconnected from life. Throughout the course of the film, through cleverly placed flashbacks, Lee’s tragic past is slowly unraveled and his character comes full circle. We spend the first act of the film we start to wonder why we would ever root for this character. But Lee, and the rest of Lonergan’s characters in this film are so full bodied that by the end, it is sympathy we feel for everyone involved. There is never any emotional explosions or melodrama with Lee because he is so numb to anything after we learn of his past.
Affleck’s chemistry with Lucas Hedges is sublime. Hedges is absolutely stunning in this film and is destined to be a star. There is a dark humor to their relationship. At first Lee is very hands off with Patrick, but as he begins to realize why his brother chose him as his guardian. As his character continues to progress, we learn that Patrick’s guardianship wasn’t about making sure he was going to be okay. It really becomes one last way for Lee’s brother to help him recover from his past. Lee takes on the role of a parent to some respect. Patrick is a normal 16-year-old, who plays hockey, has two girlfriends and is even in a band. His teenage angst is so real and emotional and credit again is due to Lonergan’s script. It’s obvious Patrick is going to be okay. It is Lee’s shattered persona that is in need of rescuing, and Affleck embodies this character perfectly within his facial expressions and the way he delivers his lines.
Michelle Williams has a only few scenes in the film but they are incredible. There are so many devastating scenes in this movie and one involves Williams and Affleck towards the end of the film. We get to the see the raw emotion Lee has been hiding the entire film bubble to the surface and it is an emotional scene. Not only does the film’s script lend to a emotionally resonant film, but praise must be given to Lonergan’s direction. He is able to pull such amazing work from the actors involved. You’ll be hearing a lot about this film come awards season and probably be seeing a lot of wins being racked up by Mr. Affleck.
There is such a wonderful sense of place in this film. Sitting in a climate controlled theater, I felt the chill of the New England winter this movie portrays. Manchester By The Sea doesn’t resort to the cliches of previous films in which the story takes place like the over top accents or constant theme of family being everything. Family is important to this film, but it isn’t the overarching theme. Even if there isn’t something to do with Lee’s past, his present or his uncertain future that we as a viewer connect with, there is another layer to this film. Alcohol. Nearly every tragic thing that happens to these characters is related to drinking. Nothing good comes from it. I think in a way, the film very much speaks to that sentiment. It’s a look into just how bad things can get when booze is involved.
There are other themes in play here as well. None ever truly reach the potency of the devastation life can bring, but there are some commentaries on social life. Men in this film are constantly having trouble connecting and communicating. Talking over each other or just bottling up emotions, it speaks the male point of view on grief.
Manchester By The Sea is the rare film that truly reflects the human condition. If you have a chance to see this film, do it. It may not strike a cord with people as far as its rewatch value as it did with me, but it is an enthralling and important piece of cinema. This is a perfect film, filled with love and . What really gives this film creditability is its refusal to tie things up in a pretty bow. It’s a devastating, powerful and tender look into the life of a truly crushed man looking to right his wrongs. Hauntingly beautiful and unflinchingly honest in its exploration of grief, Manchester By The Sea is a modern American cinematic masterpiece