Thursday, December 22, 2016

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directed this critically acclaimed movie about immense grief and loss. The story is about Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a man who left behind the town of Manchester to work as a janitor near Boston. He is called back when his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies from a heart condition. Lee discovers in Joe's Will that he is the guardian of Joe's son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). 

The movie slowly doles out information about Lee's history as the story progresses and about a third of the way through the fateful reason for his departure from Manchester is revealed. The grief builds to a haunting crescendo so unexpectedly after lulling viewers into a calm that is they ruthlessly ripped from them just like the characters. The scenes are horrifying and disturbing as it quickly jumps back to the main story. Affleck and Hedges are great together bouncing of dialogue and not addressing the sadness that lies underneath the surface.

Affleck's Lee desperately wants to leave the town where his memories haunt him and the locals dislike him but Patrick wants to stay because his life is in Manchester and as any teenage boy would, he wants to stay near the multiple girls he's dating. Patrick does not back off when confronted with Lee's grief and though they never discuss the tragedy of the past, it is always there hanging over Lee's desperate attempt to get away.

The other reminder for Lee that he wants to avoid is his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). Williams only has a few roles with Affleck before the accident with the kids and what serves as a sort of climax in the present storyline without the kids. It's a tough scene to watch as it is heartbreaking though subtle enough to creep up on viewers. The film is filled with beautiful shots of the town that seem incongruent with the troubled lives of the characters.

A part of me really appreciated this film but some of the most crucial scenes kind of missed me. I think I will have to see it again some day, most definitely if it wins best picture. I think Affleck is a good choice for best actor after seeing his powerful performance but I still haven't seen all the contestants. I would like to catch most of the films before the Golden Globes in a few weeks. 

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