Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck, moves north of Boston to Manchester by the sea in order to take care of his dead brother’s affairs. The already sorrow situation is compounded by the death haunting Lee’s past.

This movie is without a doubt the most emotionally intense story of the year.  Director Lonergan is not afraid to spearhead the topic of death in Manchester by the Sea.  Death percolates throughout his entire original screenplay.  Resulting in a depressing rollercoaster that starts low and never gets that high. 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. Namely through the characters’ 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 they need to.  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.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Genre: Drama

Distributed by: Roadside Attractions, Amazon Studios


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