Manchester by the Sea is about middle-aged Boston janitor Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck). Lee lives alone in a crummy apartment. An early montage shows us how easy it is for Lee to lose his temper. He f-offs a female client and later punches a guy at a bar. One day, Lee gets a phone call from Manchester-by-the-Sea, his home town His older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart attack. Through the skilful hands of editor Jennifer Lame, we get to revisit some important moments in their lives. Lee remembers being at the hospital when Joe had his first heart problem. He also recalls the fun times he had with Patrick, Joe’s young son, on Joe’s fishing boat. Patrick is 16 now (played by Lucas Hedges, in a star making performance). Lee has to stick around for a few days as Patrick’s mother has been out of the picture for a while, so the boy is basically alone. When Lee discovers that his brother named him as his son’s guardian, painful memories from the past comes back to haunt him. In that scene, Kenneth Lonergan informs the audience in small doses, bringing us to the final reveal inch by inch. It is even more powerful that way. After that we understand his uncontrollable sudden bursts of anger. I can’t tell you more without spoiling it. But if Manchester by the Sea is also quite funny, that’s because of teenage Patrick’s relationships with his numerous girlfriends. In life nothing is entirely without humour, no matter how dramatic things get. The cast is excellent, especially Casey Affleck (Ben‘s younger brother) and Lucas Hedges who play against each other as if the were really family. They are really brilliant. The screenplay is not the easiest to say. It has tons of overlapping, all variety of f-word all over the place (Hey! It‘s a family thing.) , but it defines every characters with clarity and hindsight. It is real and subtle. It is not flashy, but it does what it needs to get to the emotion through to us. Beside Affleck and Hedges, we should not ignore Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife. “Perfection” is such a loaded word. Yes, Manchester by the Sea is a sad, heart-wrenching, but a warm and beautiful film. And it will be the front-runner at the Oscars. For me, Manchester by the Sea is “perfect”.
And the Oscar went to… Manchester by the Sea ended the evening with two Oscars. As was predicted, Casey Affleck won Best actor. And Kenneth Lonergan was also an obvious choice for an Original screenplay win.
Manchester by the Sea