Manchester by the Sea

I knew going into Manchester by the Sea that it was one of the most critically acclaimed American movies of the century so far but I was still somehow surprised by how blown away I was.

Kenneth Lonergan has made a fantastic film about family, grief, and how easy it is to push people away when we’re hurting. It’s one of 2016’s best films not because it has any particularly new ideas or innovative style but simply because it’s refreshingly honest.

Casey Affleck (believe the hype, he kills it in this) plays Lee Chandler, a reclusive janitor who returns to his hometown after the sudden death of his brother (played by Kyle Chandler). Lee is surprised to learn that he will need to be staying home a lot longer than he had planned when he discovers that his brother’s will has named him as the guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). Losing a brother and raising a grieving teenager is further complicated by the memories of unspeakable pain and tragedy that his hometown holds.

Manchester by the Sea isn’t always pleasant but, with its sense of dark humour, never feels like a chore. Lonergan is an expert at finding humour in the unlikeliest of situations without it ever feeling forced. Actually, nothing really feels forced. It’ll make you feel powerful emotions without resorting to sentimentality. Even its non-linear structure doesn’t feel like a gimmick.

And there’s not a bad performance to speak of. Affleck has never been better and his scenes with Hedges are priceless. 2016 Golden Globe nominee Michelle Williams makes great use of her limited screen time as Lee’s ex-wife in her emotionally rawest performances in years.

Go see it!

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20 thoughts on “Manchester by the Sea

    1. Jay

      Yes, we need to see this pronto. I hate that Affleck has given me a reason to feel conflicted about this movie. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it but I can’t imagine it topping La La Land for me. That one still makes me sing.

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  1. reocochran

    Yay, I have this on my list to see soon! I have to leave my small town movie theatre and go to Columbus Ohio to see this.
    Matt, you gave a fine review without revealing too much. I like Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Looking forward to this.
    Happy Holidays to you, Matt! and to all xo

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  2. J.

    I’m really very interested in this one. I like the Affleck chap a lot – he can be a bit unsettling, but he’s really captivating.

    As for Williams, she’s brilliant too, so glad she shows up for a bit.

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  5. CineMuseFilms

    I’m glad you liked it so much Matt, as I must admit to some ambivalence. I kept waiting for something original to happen, something unexpected, but the narrative arc was visible within the first quarter and even Affleck’s brilliant acting and fabulous cinematography did not lift the story beyond cliches.

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