Delivering one of the most real dramas of 2016 filled with full-bodied characters, Manchester by the Sea will destroy your heart and soul.
When watching Manchester by the Sea, director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me and Margaret) will open a volt to your insecurities about life, love and loss. It’s a film so emotionally raw that you’ll be weeping like a sad puppy by the end. Boldly confidant, Lonergan absorbs the struggle of losing someone dear to your heart in this fallen world and at the center of it all is actor Casey Affleck. Affleck gives us one of his most painstaking performances to-date as a heart-sicken man recovering after the sudden death of his older brother Joe (a terrific Kyle Chandler).
Lee (Affleck) also comes into more shock when he finds out that Joe made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Newcomer Hedges gives us a tor de force performance of a son dealing will grief and adjustment to life after the death of his father. Patrick is a spirited 16-year-old forced to tackle the past and his father’s legacy. One of the most tear-jerking moments comes when Patrick realizes that his father can’t be buried until the spring because of the extremely cold winters up in Massachusetts. This leads Patrick to have a mental breakdown in the kitchen when frozen food falls out of the freezer and onto the floor.
Your heart will break for Patrick by relating to a moment in time when we all felt at our most vulnerable. Lee also has his demons still haunting him in Manchester-by-the-Sea (the town), which brings up old memories and heartaches. While there, Lee runs into his ex-wife Randi (a powerful Michelle Williams) who tries to let bygones be bygones with Lee. Affleck and Williams share many crucial moments on screen with each other where they both dig into their past tragedies. Both Affleck and Williams are definite Oscar contenders this season. Affleck, for sure, has my vote for Best Leading Actor of 2016.
Besides the emotional attribute, Manchester also delivers on the vivid beauty of scenery shots throughout the film. Lonergan’s newest masterwork deserves 5 out of 5 stars, as it will emotionally impact you in the days that follow. As I was leaving the theater, I over heard two friends talking about the film and what they thought about it. One of the friends said, “It was sad, just really sad.” Yes, Manchester by the Sea is a sad film, but it’s much more than just that. Manchester is a real film filled with real people as it reflects on life’s most disturbing flaw … death.
Manchester by the Sea is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and some sexual content.