Manchester By The Sea (2016): A Tough Film to Watch
Like many of my other movie reviews recently, Manchester By The Sea was finally released in more theaters, allowing me to see it. Many critics and audience members are calling the movie the best of the year, and somewhat of a safe bet to take home the Oscar for Best Picture. I’ll be sure not to reveal any spoilers so that you can decide for yourself whether you think Manchester By The Sea is worthy of the praise. Be sure to comment at the bottom of the page to keep the conversation going!
Manchester By The Sea is directed by Kenneth Lonergan and stars Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams. The film follows Lee Chandler (Affleck) who does some pretty remedial jobs such as plumbing when he finds out that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed away. He learns upon reading Joe’s will that Joe has requested that he become the guardian of his 16 year old son Patrick (Hedges). As you learn in the film, this is a difficult task for Lee to undertake due to his very tortured past.
As with a lot these movies that are released to critics as far as a month in advance of regular audiences being able to see the film, I found it imperative to stay away from as many reviews as possible so that my review is as original as possible. However, being as involved in the movie industry as I am now, it’s impossible to not hear the buzz that this movie has been getting. I was very intrigued to see if it would live up to the hype.
I also feel that Casey Affleck is a vastly underrated actor. He definitely gets lost in the shuffle a little bit with his older brother being Ben Affleck. I can imagine that being the younger brother of Batman can be a difficult thing to overcome. But Casey Affleck continues to put in great performance after great performance with my favorite being his work in Gone Baby Gone. He does a fantastic job of being understated and layered as a character.
What I Liked
I must say that after seeing the movie that I was a bit underwhelmed by the product. But that’s not to say that there isn’t some really, really great stuff in Manchester By The Sea.
To start off, Casey Affleck is absolutely amazing as the lead of this movie. I’m confident saying that he’ll be nominated for best actor and he also might even win. At the start of the movie, I had a lot of trouble connecting to Affleck’s character. He’s very unlikable in nature. People try to be kind to him but he acts very cold and unfriendly which acted as a turnoff at first. But as the plot begins to unravel and you learn why Affleck’s character is the way he is (which is due to great directing which I’ll get to in a moment), you realize how amazing of an acting job Affleck brings to the film. From then on, you are totally locked in to every line of dialogue that comes from Affleck and you gain much appreciation for the first part of the film.
As mentioned early, there is some out of control directing in this movie. The way Kenneth Lonergan decides to tell this story is really what gives this movie its weight. This movie could have been really pedestrian if told in a straightforward manner. Lonergan definitely deserves a best director nomination for his troubles. Without his work, this movie does not maintain its heartbreaking feel.
What I Liked…Continued
I also really liked how this movie maneuvers from heartbreaking sadness to a surprising amount of humor. As you may have heard, there are some absolutely devastating moments in this film. When you learn of Casey Affleck’s backstory, you’ll most likely find yourself overcome with emotion. I heard many sniffles multiple times from the audience throughout the film (mine included). The film balanced these horrible moments some great subdued humor which is often times very dark. There is some great interplay between Casey Affleck and the young Lucas Hedges. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more from Lucas Hedges in the future because he was also fantastic as a troubled teenager. I wouldn’t be surprised either if he were also nominated for his work. The connection between our two leads really makes this subdued movie engaging.
What I Didn’t Like
I was so ready to give this movie a great grade (which I seem to be doing a lot of recently). The acting and dialogue between each character had me absolutely hooked. I was so invested in everyone in the film, but then the ending personally fell very, very flat. I don’t need a happy ending to love a film, and Manchester By The Sea certainly doesn’t call for everyone to holds hands and love each other as the credits fall over the screen. But the ending left me feeling that each character had a limited arc throughout the story, that the hardships they all went through didn’t have any particular type of payoff. I wanted more out of this movie, but it abruptly ended before it could have a full release of emotions.
Overall, Manchester By The Sea is an absolute acting clinic that gets letdown by a less than stellar final frames. I’ll give it a B. I still fully expect this movie to be a contender for many Oscars, so I’d say it is definitely worth your time at the theater.
Have you seen Manchester By The Sea? What are your thoughts? Comment and let me know!
What should I review next? Whether it’s old or new, the choice is up to you!