Star rating: 3.5/4
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
The movies this year are pretty bleak—Manchester by the Sea being amongst the bleakest. Kenneth Lonergan’s latest film follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a blue collar Boston handyman with an upsetting past, deal with the death of his brother (played by the always terrific Kyle Chandler) and his newfound responsibility of his late brother’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
Much like Lonergan’s last film Margaret, Manchester by the Sea excels at realistic and poignant dialogue, a slow but even pace, and gut-wrenching acting. A conversation between Lee and his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) will not leave you alone for days after the movie ends and you go home, and in my opinion, will earn Williams the best supporting actress Oscar. Lonergan gives the actors realistic and flowing dialogue, but directs each scene to perfection. The audience feels more like an observer to this broken family’s life than a paying customer at a movie theater.
Lonergan wrote the character of Lee beautifully ,and Casey Affleck knocked it out of the park. For a disappointing year in cinema, full of clichés and character puppets, Manchester by the Sea is a refreshing and honest story about families coping not just with death but their own flaws that keep them from happiness. The movie is not all sad, though. Lucas Hedges brings warmth to the screen and more than an occasional laugh. Well-placed flashbacks with Lee and his brother remind us that going back in time isn’t always a crutch for a scrappy screenwriter (looking at you, Sully), but a tool for effective story telling. Lonergan made the right choice as the fraternal chemistry between Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler was dynamite
Kenneth Lonergan was denied his much-deserved praise for Margaret back in 2011, hopefully he won’t be left out this year.