A simple story executed to perfection!
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
Manchester by the Sea presents a gripping and sad tale of family, love and loss. It is probably the most balanced film of the year with its originality, beautiful writing, and stellar acting performances. Director Kenneth Lonergan guides the story with utmost finesse and the result is a very genuine, realistic and emotionally resonant drama film.
The film starts off by introducing us to Lee (played by Casey Affleck), a reserved handyman. He is clearly trouble and is also socially repulsed. To add to his woes, he receives the news one day that his brother, Joe (played by Kyle Chandler), has suffered from a heart attack. Casey Affleck’s performance in the movie is truly spectacular. He captures the internal pain of his character so beautifully.
Lee then returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea where he finds out that Joe has already passed away in the hospital. He also eventually discovers that Joe has stated in his will that he would like Lee to be the guardian of his (Joe’s) teenage son now. This is where the film really kicks off. Lee, a man who is already troubled and dealing with his past demons, has been given a huge responsibility which can alter the course of his already unstable life. The core part of the film is how Lee adapts to his new role as guardian and how he ‘bonds’ with Joe’s son, Patrick.
The narrative of the story is presented with the aid of several ‘flashback’ scenes. These scenes give us necessary background information which explain the actions and feelings of the various characters. Moreover, these scenes also help in making the plot denser and the characters more three-dimensional.
Relationships within a family and their complications are a major theme of the movie. The film takes its time in exploring the relationships that the main character, Lee, has with his brother, his parents, Joe’s son and his ex-wife, Randi (played by Michelle Williams). The disturbed character of Lee is in fact the product of all these relationships he has. The way that Casey Affleck captures the emotional layers of his character is truly remarkable.
The backdrop of the small town of Manchester-by-the-Sea is very scenic and provides beautiful imagery. But the overall atmosphere of the film is quite gloomy and depressing throughout. A core part of the movie is in fact sadness.
What set Manchester by the Sea apart from other drama films is its realism. Everything that happens in the movie seems like it would happen in real life as well. There are many instances of small, seemingly unimportant scenes (like a character forgetting where he parked his car) which make the film seem so genuine. In fact, our real life is composed of numerous such ‘small’ events and that is why they’ve been included in the film.
Manchester by the Sea also avoids the mistake of being too melodramatic, despite being a film revolving around sad events. It is very raw and all its emotional scenes are executed brilliantly. The acting by the entire cast, especially Casey Affleck, is absolutely superb. It really elevates the emotional intensity of the film.
I’ve thought long and hard about it but I could hardly find any flaw in Manchester by the Sea. It has a fairly long running time but still every scene felt necessary. Every small moment played its part in adding to the plot. The movie avoided many clichés to become truly unique and a benchmark for drama films nowadays.
FINAL RATING: 5/5