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After the sudden death of his older brother, Lee, played by Casey
Affleck, is made legal guardian of his son Patrick. He then returns to
his hometown and is forced to deal with a tragic past that separated
him from his family and the community he was born and raised in.
Kenneth Lonergan is such an extraordinary and talented writer; his beautifully, and richly, textured drama draws upon the timeless themes of recovery, redemption, and the persistence of guilt in such a way that feels fresh. The emotion is never overbearing for the sake of being overbearing, rather it feels all too real, which is a credit to the writing as much as it is to the fantastic performances.
This is the 'Casey Affleck show' from beginning to end; you can just give him the 'Best Actor' Oscar right now and save everyone a whole lot of trouble. He radiates this aura of subtle magnetism so brilliantly and effortlessly; there's not a single emotion on the spectrum that goes unexploited.
As much as the film is about Lee and his internal journey from tragedy to something a lot more hopeful, it's also about his nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, who has a very bright future, and his personal struggle to cope with his father's death. Despite having a small yet significant part in the film, Michelle Williams' performance is a treasure to behold. There's one scene, in particular, where she got everyone in attendance wishing they brought a tissue.
Unlike many big-budget studio movies, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is not afraid to make the audience work and test the viewer's patience with its constant, and unannounced, cutting between past and present, as well as its unwavering unravelling of character background and motivation. In fact, one of its best aspects is the lack of close-ups. Almost everything is filmed from afar, which reflects Lee's emotional distancing. And it's not until later where you finally find out why this guy has detached himself from the rest of the world. Then, from that point on, you're in his head; you watch the film unfold from a point-of-view almost entirely foreign to how you viewed it at first.
Regardless of the second half's slackening pace and film's familiar DNA, this is without a doubt the most personal and heart wrenching film of 2016 thus far. Maybe even the best.
I was very pleased to snag a last minute returned, lone available
ticket to the European premiere of this on Saturday as I'd heard a lot
of great things about this film and it had been sold out.
The premise is simple: when his brother Joe dies, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is forced to take care of his teenage nephew in his hometown, from which he moved away years earlier to escape his demons from a trauma years earlier.
It becomes clear early on that Lee had life figured out years earlier. The film jumps between the past and the present, revealing a time where Lee was married, spent a lot of time with his friends and family (especially his brother and his nephew) and was content with life. But while jumping between the two periods of time, the film travels along at a slow, tense pace, tentatively revealing facets of Lee's past and present personalities (which are remarkably different) before hitting the audience with the full force of what exactly what made him run from his hometown.
Casey Affleck is astonishingly good and it's no wonder that there is a strong early buzz around his performance. He essentially plays two different characters, a man before trauma and a man after. The 'before' in flashbacks is fairly simple, a relatively friendly and happy-go-lucky guy who spends a lot of time with his friends and family, has a close relationship with his nephew, etc. But where he excels is in the quiet desperation of the present-day Lee Chandler. With this character there are only rare moments of outward emotion - but Affleck plays it so that it is painfully clear just how much hurt Lee is keeping inside. Best Actor Oscar nomination, and highly possible win, incoming.
Despite the serious subject matter, there is a surprising warmth that permeates the film. This is a film primarily about a man forced to confront his demons, yes, but it is also a film about family and the ties that bind us to our hometown. There is a terrific chemistry between Affleck's Lee and Lucas Hedges, who plays his nephew Patrick. Make no mistake, despite its subject matter this film is often hilarious, with the dialogue between Lee and his nephew providing most of the frequent outbursts of laughter in the cinema. Owing to his detachment and fear, Lee is fairly useless as a caregiver to Patrick, who in turn pushes his limits in being allowed to do whatever he wants (mostly chasing girls - there are particularly hilarious scenes when he is trying to get laid).
Affleck's Lee is also forced to confront his demons in the form of his now ex-wife Randi, played by the ever-brilliant Michelle Williams. It's actually a relatively small part, but a key one, with an especially important scene that is played beautifully by both Affleck and Williams. In the Q&A that took place before the film, Williams talked about how she had spent 15 years wanting to work with 'Kenny' Lonergan, the director, as he is such a beautiful writer, and so she jumped at the chance before she'd even really heard detail about the part.
And it's clear to see why she would be so desperate to work with Kenneth Lonergan, whose writing and directing for this film is gentle, warm and heartbreaking in one package. It's bleak, but hints at hope. It's understated, but breaks out in small moments of agony without overdoing it (the middle of the film is particularly gut-wrenching). I would be very surprised not to see nominations in his direction also.
Beautiful writing and directing from Kenneth Lonergan, and a stunning performance from Casey Affleck in particular. It's a beautiful, quiet picture encapsulating trauma, guilt, redemption and familial bonds.
Dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy turns a once warm and ebullient
family man into a solemn, withdrawn, and angry loner in Kenneth
Lonergan's ("Margaret") bittersweet drama Manchester by the Sea, one of
the best films of 2016. Set in the picturesque city of Manchester on
Massachusetts' north shore, cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes ("Martha
Marcy May Marlene") captures the rugged beauty of the New England town
with its bays filled with trawlers and its winter streets and municipal
buildings covered in a shimmering white. It is a town that looks as if
it has not changed in decades, or even centuries.
Lee Chandler, in a haunting performance by Casey Affleck ("Interstellar"), is a janitor/handyman who spends his days painting, doing minor plumbing work, repairing leaks, and so on or just giving advice while making sure to avoid any social interaction with the people he is working for. His nights are spent drinking alone in bars where he is quick to start fights or at home watching TV in his small apartment. There is no hint during the film's first half hour about what has brought him to his present state of disequilibrium, but in his mumbling inability to express his thoughts, we know that something unspoken is driving his need for isolation.
Lee has been living in nearby Quincy but, when his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler, "Carol") succumbs to a heart attack, he has to return to Manchester to make funeral arrangements and attend the reading of the will and to confront the people that he has turned away from. His grief over his brother's death turns to shock, however, when he discovers that he has been named the legal guardian of Joe's 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), a popular high school student. Since Patrick's mom Elise (Gretchen Mol, "Anesthesia") is an alcoholic who left town long ago, Lee is the only person who can assume the task.
It is one, however, that he does not feel ready for. Eventually, the seminal event that changed Lee's life forever is revealed, depicted in a straightforward manner without histrionics or pandering, even if the overused baroque music tends to amplify the drama beyond what is required. In flashback, we see that Lee was once a happy family man with a loving wife Randi (Michelle Williams, "Suite Française") and three young children and we see him joking around with his young nephew Patrick (Ben O'Brien) on their fishing boat. Assuming the responsibility of being a father-figure to Patrick, we glimpse the man that Lee used to be.
The dialogue between the abrasive Lee and the feisty, sharp-tongued Patrick feels real and without guile but channeling the chemistry they have together into rebuilding his life is a challenge. Manchester by the Sea is a serious film but is balanced by humor. In one such scene, Patrick awkwardly attempts to hide the obvious from his mom about studying in his room with his girlfriend. Another funny incident takes place when Lee is used as a cover for Patrick's surreptitious juggling of his two girlfriends. The issues between them take a more serious tone, however, when Lee is convinced that he and Patrick should move to Boston, a suggestion that Patrick rebels at, citing his high school girlfriends, his being on the soccer team, and his playing in the school band.
Though Michelle Williams has a small role, she turns in one of her best performances. In a powerful confrontation with Lee, it is clear that she still loves him but has felt compelled to suppress it in order to bury the past and move on. Manchester by the Sea belongs to Casey Affleck, however, who turns in what is arguably the best performance of his career. The film does not have the sort of neat resolution that you may have come to expect but what it does have are real people whose lives you want to be a part of and you know that that world is not one that can only happen in the movies, but a real experience of life fully lived in all its pain and all its joy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not a snob out to distinguish himself from the 97% Rotten Tomato ravers. I was just really disappointed walking out of the theatre. I don't know if I've ever seen a more self indulgent domestic weepy. The film sets the viewer up with mountains of spoon-fed plot tragedy and setback and then mines every last drop of melodrama and tears out of such. Affleck's character is a flawless, blameless Everyman and behaves so heroic it becomes impossible to feel for his plight. Williams is terrific but barely on screen for ten minutes. What apparently is intended to pass as compelling real-life dialog quickly becomes mundane and boring. Likewise, our younger protagonist is a teenage lothario having far too good a time to be awarded compassion. The non- Hollywood ending comes across as pretentious, though it certainly comes as a relief.
It's just a well crafted picture.
Casey Affleck fits into this role like a glove, and he was amazing in it. If he were to win an Oscar for this one that would make sense completely.
Manchester by the Sea has Affleck as uncle Lee, a janitor in Boston whose brother dies and is forced by the will to take care of his nephew, a task he's not up to.
The movie is very real and strangely raw to be filmed so beautifully (but I am a sucker for movies shot in the winter). It's slow moving enough to notice but not enough to bore you, cause that's life.
What really grasp me about Manchester by the Sea is how clumsy it is. So many scenes in which the dramatic punches are ruined by everyday life. It's just not fake like a lot of movies are usually. It had the guts to keep in all those awkward moments that humans go through knowing that we would relate, and it does this without skipping on the romance you would find in dramas like this.
It's all the real emotions people go through when life gives you a curve ball, yet life does not allow you a time out. Great movie! Amazing performance by Affleck!!
A must see.
These type of films don't come around that often, and for good reason.
It takes focus and effort to come up with stories and themes that touch
deeper than the usual Hollywood dirge. The story-line is completely
unpredictable , unlike 95% of the films out there.
What is most intriguing about M B T S , is the way in which highly depressing themes are kept in check with humour, intelligent scripting and a subtle feel good factor, which seems to creep in at exactly the right time. The overall feel is also kept balanced by the intricacies of the relationships between various characters. Affleck has taken his game to the next level , his character and mannerisms are completely believable -he is submerged into type.
As a couple of mid 40 somethings, we grew tired of the typical film genres some years ago. We long for films like this, and having seen many of the nominated films for this year (bafta), this one is by far the clear leader. Hacksaw ridge is just another glorification of war, predictable, overly violent and boring, silence is good OK but not special and the list goes on. Manchester by the sea deserves recognition for standing out in a sea of mediocrity
In spite of a most annoying & pretentious score, this was a very moving film--actually a mouth-gaping appreciation of Casey Affleck. He carries the film, along with the actor playing his brother, Michelle Williams, & his nephew. Some scenes early on seem to plod on, and the pivotal scene of Affleck's past (that will forever haunt him) is reconstructed by voice-over rather than __seeing__ the evidence, which becomes a little disconcerting, considering how important it is. I was really impressed by Affleck's character, who seemed incapable of enjoying anything in his life. His alcoholism is palpable, as well as his violence, but he plays a wholly realized character--infinitely better than he did in "Gone Baby Gone." I hope he wins an Oscar for this role: I've never seen him better. And Michelle Williams is wonderful, especially in a near-conclusion confrontation with Affleck: that alone is Oscar-worthy. It's beautifully shot in the actual Manchester-by-the-Sea, and it's definitely worth seeing.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is perfect in every way. A film that's as
emotionally powerful as it is exquisitely shot. Casey Affleck and
Michelle Williams are phenomenal. Young talent Lucas Hedges is a
must-see. Oscar nominated writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's way of
capturing the struggling working class of America comes from a genuine
Oscar nominee Casey Affleck plays a solitary Boston janitor, Lee Chandler, who returns to his hometown after the death of his older brother in order to take care of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is very reluctant about taking on this new responsibility because he's already overwhelmed as it is living from paycheck to paycheck, in addition to being haunted by a certain past tragedy that separated him from his wife, Randi (Michelle Williams).
Casey Affleck originally came from Massachusetts, from this story's neck of the woods, so he brings a lot of himself and his familiarity with the region into his character. The film shows us small town USA, it shows us a fishing village, it shows us a place with long tradition, a way of living that's been handed down from generation to generation. So the region itself plays a very integral supporting role in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. If you understand that, then you'll understand the characters.
What I love about this film is how funny and how poignant it is in its approach to explaining to us the importance family, community, sacrifice and adjusting to life after so much has been taken from you. When Lee suffered a loss, his brother was there. When his brother dies, he takes care of his brother's son. There's no escaping that, but you can just see everybody in that community just starts pulling their weight and pitching in voluntarily, you don't see much of that anymore, unfortunately, these days. And throughout the film, Lonergan wants to show us that that sense of having each other's backs is not yet instinct and he does it in a way that's honest. Even the arguments between Lee and Patrick, yes you'll laugh at their trying to make it work but at the same time you're kinda glad that they at least are arguing, in their own awkward way, they're communicating. Great performances by all the actors involved, I can't say enough to praise Affleck, Williams, and Hedges. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is an example of strength in simplicity.
-- Rama's Screen --
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is written for people who have already seen the film. Holding the audience captive in suspense as to what is the dark beyond in the main character's life does nothing. It slows down the movie and makes it tedious. When writers contrive these flashback-to-present scenes, it has to have a big payoff, or what's the point? In general, telling this story mostly chronologically would have served the pacing and sense of the film much better. After an hour or so into the film we finally know 'what happened' and finally we can really just watch the movie. The movie is about how a guy recovers from a tragedy by facing the prospect of becoming his nephew's guardian. But you don't get to be in on that until it's almost too late. It's stupid. The relationship between the uncle and nephew does turn out to be quite interesting and worth watching once you get there. Before then it's a conceptual writer's device to jump back and forth in time to somehow make the movie more suspenseful or something. Once the tragedy is revealed the movie becomes much more cohesive and for me, a pleasure to watch. Overall I think it is good, it's just perplexing as to why writers go to such great lengths to invent concepts that don't serve to tell the story well. Being artistic is mistaken for contriving conception. Oh well. It's still pretty good, with solid acting compensating for writer/director ego.
I think your enjoyment of this movie will be determined by what you
expect from your movie- going experience. Do you expect to be on the
edge of your seat, or do expect to relax and think about life? Do you
want to be challenged, or be touched emotionally? These are things you
should figure out before heading into the theater to see this movie
because it's not to be taken lightly.
The Good: This movie is all about Casey Affleck and he does a good job. He conveys the range and depth of emotion that is critical to a drama of this nature. Without Casey Affleck, there is no movie. Lucas Hedges' performance effectively compliments that of Casey Affleck, allowing a unique sense of bonding between their characters to develop.
The Bad: Some scenes are slow and stagnant and I found myself becoming impatient on a few occasions. Comedy is incorporated into many scenes to relieve dramatic stress, but these instances don't always fulfill their purpose and can become awkward.
Things To Consider: Gentlemen, if you decide to see this movie with your significant other, prepare for tears. In fact, you might want to prepare for some tears on your end as well. It's hard to watch at times but is worth your time and money.
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