Movie Name: Manchester by the Sea
Studio: K Period Media
Release Date(s): January 23, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)/November 18, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) receives the news he’s been dreading. His brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has succumb to heart disease. Lee finds himself drawn back to Manchester-by-the-Sea to tend to his brother’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) but learns that he’s supposed to be Patrick’s new guardian. For Lee, Manchester-by-the-Sea houses misery and the life he was trying to forget.
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is a drama. The film was initially released at Sundance in 2016 and received a wide release in November. The movie received critical acclaim and a strong box office return for the low production budget. The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), and Best Supporting Actress (Williams).
Don’t go into Manchester by the Sea expecting a pick-me-up type movie. The movie is full of broken people. An occasional joke is mixed in but the movie is about misery and sadness…and it does a great job wallowing in it.
Everyone is fractured in the movie in their own way. Lee can’t get past the death of his children, his brother Joe couldn’t get past his wife’s actions, Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) can’t get over how she treated Lee, Patrick is torn up by a lot of things including his father’s death and his mother’s treatment of him. This is all compounded by a town that doesn’t want fractured people. No one wants to see Lee around because they are reminded of what happened to his family and how he reacted. Lee cannot mend because he cannot survive there.
The acting is top notch. I always liked Casey Affleck and far preferred him to his brother (originally Matt Damon was scheduled to star but he only ended up producing it). Michelle Williams roles is rather small, but she makes the most of her screentime including making a very real feeling couple. Lucas Hedges is pretty young but does a decent job as someone who is trying to get his head around what is happening. Kyle Chandler could have been in the movie more and Gretchen Mol and Matthew Broderick have small roles as Patrick’s mother and her new fiancé.
The movie also has great visuals. Many sea movies take place in the summer where the water is warm and the ocean is inviting. Here, the ocean is cold and destructive. Everyone is frozen and trapped. It is almost blatant, but it still works.
Manchester by the Sea is a hard movie, and it is hard from the start. It is a movie that despite just meeting the characters, you immediately identify with their pain and suffering because it is universal. There aren’t solutions to the suffering, and Manchester by the Sea realizes that. Everyone deals with pain their own way, and Manchester by the Sea is a movie that shows how that can come out.