Manchester by the Sea
Film Review by Kam Williams
Blood Thicker than Water in Dysfunctional Family Drama Set in New England
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) was having a hard time hanging on to his job as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts, when he received word from a family friend (C.J. Wilson) that his big brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), had just suffered a heart attack after a fall on his fishing boat. Lee immediately rushed to the hospital only to learn that his sibling had just passed away.
Joe had been raising his son (Lucas Hedges) alone, since his long-estranged wife (Gretchen Mol) had a serious, substance abuse problem. Therefore, it now not only falls upon Lee’s shoulders to inform Patrick about the tragedy, but to serve as the grieving teen’s guardian and role model, in accordance with his brother’s last wishes.
Out of a sense of duty, Lee reluctantly moves back to his hometown, Manchester by the Sea, a place where he’d already experienced more than his share of misfortune. While subsequently trying to control a headstrong, 16 year-old, he finds himself forced to confront his demons when he crosses paths with his contrite ex-wife (Michelle Williams).
Thus unfolds Manchester by the Sea, a character-driven drama written and directed by two-time, Oscar-nominee Kenneth Lonergan (for the scripts of You Can Count on Me and Gangs of New York). Another Academy Award nomination is likely in the offing for this heartrending portrait of a working-class hero.
Lee is not your typical protagonist, not by a long shot. He’s an uncharismatic underachiever with a checkered past. Yet, by the same token, it is clear that he is determined to do his best by the boy with whose care he’s been entrusted. Trouble is, Lee’s a man of few words who simply doesn’t come equipped with a sophisticated skill set.
Still, Lonergan somehow manages to explore the inscrutable everyman’s psyche in a novel way which not only makes him accessible, but likable. Credit must go to Casey Affleck, too, for his nonpareil performance in a role where he was often forced to resort to non-verbal communication in myriad situations where words would ostensibly escape Lee.
An emotionally-engaging tale of redemption certain to garner its share of accolades over the course of the awards season.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Amazon Studios /Roadside Attractions
Source: Baret News