Manchester By The Sea

Movie titles can get pretty descriptive. The ones that can really sell you on a setting with just a title do a lot of work and can help draw people in.

Something like The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? That is a descriptive and specific title, you know the main people involved and the event in question!

That is an extreme example. For Manchester By The Sea, it just really wants you to know which Manchester the film is set in. “Is it the Manchester by the forest? Is it the Manchester in the mountains? Is it the Manchester in Iowa?” No damn it. It is the Manchester by the sea!

And this is presumably a Casey by the sea!

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a seemingly miserable prick. He lives alone, works a basic janitorial job for a complex and deals with shitty tenants, and sometimes he is shitty in return. He just wants to drink and forget his worries. And this is how he was before his brother (Kyle Chandler) died.

Lee has to head up to his hometown of Manchester to help deal with the aftermath. Funeral arrangements, will stuff, and checking on the kid, Lee’s nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee has a problem in Manchester, something that happened in his past that the locals talk about and spread rumors. And nope, you aren’t getting that spoiler in this review.

Needless to say, Lee wants this whole thing to get finished as soon as possible so he can get back to his new life and out of this town. And then he finds out his brother left him as the guardian of Patrick, not their uncle like they talked about. This will also shake up Lee’s life, forcing him to either dump the kid off with a friend or worse, Patrick’s mom (Gretchen Mol) who was a trainwreck throughout his youth.

Or, strange as it may seem, maybe just movie back to his old town and be this guy’s guardian?

Also starring Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife, Tom Kemp, Anna Baryshnikov, Kara Hayward, C.J. Wilson, and Matthew Broderick.

Selling A Boat
If you look close you can see them in a boat. A boat ON the sea.

All I wanted to do was see some realistic acting and maybe cry a little bit. Instead, I got fantastic and realistic acting, and bawling my eyes out.

Thankfully the film reveals what happened in Lee’s past about halfway through the film, and the moment and scene really got to me in the theater. I felt horrible and I was forced to imagine how it would affect my own life. Even after the flashbacks were over, I then had to consider every scene of the film from that point forward in relation to Lee’s past. Normally regular dramatic scenes became sadder from this knowledge and the cries came intermittently.

In the final conversation between Affleck and Williams you would be hard pressed to find a viewer who doesn’t become emotional as a result. They bring so much into their characters. Affleck of course, being the main character, and it is expected, but I was surprised at how much pain I felt with Williams who had significantly less screen time.

The film wasn’t just sad, but it was awkward. There were awkward situations/reunions, uncomfortable conversations about death, and it was a funny film. That’s right, laughter, I laughed about as much as I had cried. I officially classified this as a drama/dark comedy, but honestly it could still be considered just a regular comedy. The balance between the two was extremely precise in this film that it really fits both molds.

Other notes: The setting was gorgeous, the cameras were well placed, the actors and people involved all felt like they belonged. This was a snapshot on a community as much as it was on a single person. Affleck will most likely be nominated for an award for the film, and hopefully Williams for Supporting Actress. I still haven’t seen all the potential contenders to know if anyone will actually win though. Affleck just continues to impress with every film he is in.

Also, there are accents. Accents!

4 out of 4.

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