“Manchester by the Sea” stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, and Gretchen Mol. Released in limited theaters on November 18, 2016, followed by a wide release on December 16, 2016, the film is about an uncle who becomes a guardian to his nephew after his brother passed away.
The film is directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed You Can Count On Me and Margaret. It has been nominated for five Golden Globe awards, including Best Director, Best Actor for Affleck, and Best Screenplay. I have been hearing a lot of great things about this film, especially since it won a few awards at this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards. The weather outside prevented me from visiting other cinemas to see La La Land and/or Jackie, so I decided to go with this since it’s playing at my closest cinema. Let’s just say I’m pretty glad that I did.
Based on what I saw, the film deals with the grief of a family member’s passing as well as the complicated relationship between Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck) and his nephew Patrick (played by Hedges). During certain points, it shows flashbacks that explain why these two characters are so strained not just from themselves, but also from each other. A story like this can be depressing, but it’s like that for a reason. There’s plenty of people who went through something like this, and Kenneth Lonergan made sure that it translates well onto film, and I thought it worked almost perfectly. Casey Affleck’s brilliant performance as Lee serves as a strong competitor for the Golden Globes as well as the Oscars, while Hedges tries to make a huge name for himself as Patrick and succeeds with ease. Michelle Williams was also terrific as Lee’s ex-wife, Randi. The first half of the film took a little while to offer something interesting, and as soon as it did, it never lets that go to waste. Despite being over two hours long and a little slow, the film actually grabbed my attention as soon as Lee enters Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. The film was portrayed like I was watching real life. The characters felt real, the situations felt real, heck, even the town where they shot the film felt real. It’s like the film is actually real life itself. Also, kudos to the film’s score for adding more depth around the characters.
Overall, “Manchester by the Sea” is a smart, depressing film about grief thanks to its strong performances and Lonergan’s remarkable direction. People who dealt with this situation before will find it very relatable. However, I wouldn’t say it’s for everybody. The film’s pacing, as well as its depressing concept, may become an issue for those who aren’t into this kind of stuff, especially when they’re looking for some escapism like...oh, I don’t know, Rogue One. But if you don’t mind any of that, then it’s worth checking out.