Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
How can you describe a film like Manchester By the Sea? Cold (very cold), depressing (very depressing), unrelenting, but also incredibly honest. I think that’s the word I’d associate the most with Kenneth Lonergan’s film. It’s about honest people who are struggling with the hardship and unfairness of life, and it should be applauded for that. A lot of people have been very quick to praise Casey Affleck’s performance, and that’s perfectly justified.
However, Manchester By the Sea is so much more than just one performance. Affleck’s acting ability isn’t the only thing that makes this film a fascinating watch. He’s backed up by a wonderful cast on the top of their game: Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, but in particular Lucas Hedges, who delivers an amazing turn as the 16 year-old Patrick.
I can’t be his guardian.
Manchester By the Sea tells the story of a janitor, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), living in Quincy, Massachusetts, who’s forced to go back to his hometown, Manchester-by-the-sea, to look after his nephew when his brother dies of a heart attack. However, things get a bit complicated when he find out that his brother, played by Kyle Chandler, has made Lee his son’s guardian. Lee doesn’t feel ready to take on such a responsibility and tries to find his nephew a suitable guardian.
As I said above, Lonergan’s film is a difficult watch because of it’s depressing subject matter. It did feel a bit relenting at points. However, it’s also quite a funny film, especially the interchanges between Affleck’s Lee and Hedges’ Patrick. This humour felt necessary to cut through all the gloom and tears. It’s important to have the balance, and Lonergan has achieved it very subtly.
I said a lot of terrible things to you. My heart was broken, and I know yours is broken, too.
Subtly is another one of the film’s strong points. Despite the slightly dramatic things that happen in the film, the film’s real drama lies in subtle details. There’s a gut-wrenching scene between Casey Affleck’s Lee and his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) which moved me more than anything else in the film. It wasn’t a big Oscar-baity speech, it was all about what was left unsaid, and Affleck and Williams said so much without uttering a single word.
Despite having said that this film is more than just Affleck’s performance, you can’t discuss Manchester By the Sea without talking about Casey Affleck. Simply put, he’s superb, and to think that Matt Damon was originally set to star in the film. I’m a big admirer of his, however I can’t imagine anyone else but Casey Affleck in the lead role.
I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it. I’m sorry.
Even though he doesn’t say much in the film, the way Affleck holds himself shows us that he’s a broken man, an unhappy man who’s accepted his fate to be alone for the rest of his life. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the Oscar for Best Actor. He already bagged himself the Golden Globe, and deservedly so. I’m sure that his brother, Ben Affleck, would appreciate a mention this time around if Casey were to win the Oscar.
Manchester By the Sea is a hard watch, but also a beautiful one. It’s sombre, achingly sad, some may think it’s a tad too sad. However, there’s a sweetness to the bitterness. It may sound like a strange thing to say, but I found myself laughing a few times.