Saturday, December 17, 2016

Manchester by the Sea: Movie Review


The intertwining of love, death, depression and beauty.
A story of death, loss and depression, Manchester by the Sea is also an entertaining, eloquently constructed film about hope and moving on. The brilliance of Manchester by the Sea lies in its ability to completely envelope you into its world, and with its universal themes that is rather easily accomplished. It’s a very simple story that it tells, but one that can leave a loving impact on its viewers. 2016

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

Screenplay by: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges

It starts in Boston. Lee (Casey Affleck) is a down-on-his-luck handyman for an apartment building; shovelling snow, fixing leaks and changing lightbulbs. This is a very slow-moving Lee, one who doesn’t care to get involved with anybody and spends his nights watching basketball games from the 90s, whenever he’s not getting into random bar fights. It’s not too long before we learn that there’s another side to Lee.
Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.
Photo credit: Claire Folger, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
But first, his brother dies. Lee is called and he has to drive to Manchester, go to the hospital, tell his nephew and start to arrange the funeral. There are two main aspects to the film that I absolutely love. The first is Lee and nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) as they adapt to life together and the planning of a funeral. Simultaneously, it is both very accurate and very funny. From greasy funeral directors to inappropriate blurting out to arguments about burying, there is a lot of entertaining dialogue. Lee and Patrick both have very different approaches to their loss. Lee was already emotionally-distant, and while he remains so, the loss allows him to move into a more productive mode. He has important things that need to be done, and he can put his feelings aside to accomplish it. Patrick on the other hand, buries his emotions. The day after his father dies, he goes to school, wants to play hockey, and continues his daily quest to bed either one, but preferably both, of his two girlfriends.

The other main element of the film is the life that Lee is living now compared to the life that he used to live. We get flashbacks to when he was married with kids and having a lot of fun with his brother and nephew. There are a lot of clues about Lee leaving Manchester, and eventually it all comes to a boil. The evolution of his character and everything he has gone through in his life is interesting and extremely well handled by Affleck.

Manchester by the Sea is a very quiet film, but very engaging, and never drags. It is as funny as it is depressing, and beautiful to watch as it all unfolds in the scenic town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. It’s not just Kenneth Lonergan’s best film, but also the best film of the year.
Best of 2016