This movie is without a doubt the most emotionally intense story of the year. Lonergan is not afraid to spearhead the topic of death in Manchester by the Sea. Death percolates throughout his entire original screenplay about Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) as the mourning brother trying to handle the affairs of his dead brother. Every cast member pulls their weight to create an emotionally powerful film. In the end the viewer is left barely hanging on.
Manchester by the Sea‘s strong foundation can be attributed to the viscerally touching screenplay. Lonergan penned the original screenplay, but the concept was presented to him by Matt Damon and John Krasinski. Death itself is obviously not a new theme in the film world, but their concept brings a real world exploration of death through the discovery of the illness, the death itself and through the long process leading up to the funeral. The less you know about the story the better, as any priming will certainly soften the blow this film dishes out.
The transitions between the present and the flashbacks to the past are seamless and flawless in execution. Details are not revealed too early or drawn out to the point that the reveal loses its impact. Focal points of the film unfold precisely when we need to hear them. In an interview with Tatiana Siegel, Lonergan said, “I tried to [write it without flashbacks] and that was really dull. It just seemed like a pointless march of misery.1” Lonergan’s decision to include flashbacks sets a strong pace that also leaves the viewer gratified.
The compelling and authentic acting found in Manchester by the Sea provides a collage of emotion and intrigue. Each actor and actress succeeds in appealing to the viewer’s empathy. Stellar performances by: Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, C.J. Wilson, create a chemistry that is impossible to ignore. However, Casey Affleck steals the show. Affleck’s character, Lee, is a ghost of a man with a horrifically depressing background. The consistency and intensity in which Affleck portrays his character is the powerhouse behind this film’s greatness. Certainly a must match for anyone seeking a dark drama with a challenging take on death.
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Cinematography: Jody Lee Lipes
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan
Music by: Lesley Barber
Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Runtime: 2h 17m
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions, Amazon Studios