Sunday, February 5, 2017

Manchester by the Sea (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 137 minutes
Director/ Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick

Manchester By The Sea is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Universal Pictures.

The stunning and incredibly crafted Manchester by the Sea is as heartbreaking as it is brilliant with it's tale of devastating tragedy intercepting with the absurdity of life.

Janitor Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) ran from his Massachusetts hometown of Manchester to escape his haunting personal tragedy, but he is summoned back when another family tragedy occurs. Upon the death of his brother, Lee becomes his nephew, Patrick's (Lucas Hedges) guardian. Despite his obvious love for Patrick, he is reluctant to move his life back to Manchester and accept a life of pain at the hands of the past.

Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea is not only devastating in story, but devastatingly beautiful as a whole. The atmospheric film set in the coastal New England town masters the art of modern tragedy and the Charles Chaplin quote "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot" represents the film perfectly.

Manchester by the Sea is brilliantly written and directed by Lonergan as it captures the intensity of never-ending grief, guilt and heartbreak that accompanies a traumatic event, such as the one experienced by Affleck's Lee and his ex-wife, Randi (as portrayed in a stellar performance by Michelle Williams). However, the screenplay emphasises the fact that the absurdity of life does not disappear in tragedy and although humour is lost in the eye of the beholder, it is still there, as is seen in various surprisingly amusing scenes in the film (eg. losing the car and the frozen chicken scene). This inclusion of humour in the tragedy is such an achievement as the film does not lose any of it's emotional impact as a result of these fleeting, but effective moments of amusement. Rather, it adds to the realism and enjoyment of the film.

The film is exceptionally character driven with it's large focus on human interaction and relationships. Casey Affleck as protagonist, Lee Chandler gives an extraordinary performance as the man who has lost all that he ever cared about and despite having tried to move on, cannot do so in Manchester where everyone knows everything about each other. The character development is exceptionally strong with Lee as the film allows us to feel the extent and depth of his change in response to his life-altering events. Affleck is truly remarkable as Lee. He gives an emotionally powerful, yet restrained performance which naturally channels a broken man trying to navigate his way through life and find meaning once again.

Although Michelle Williams is truly heartbreaking as Randi, it is the chemistry between Affleck and Lucas Hedges, who plays Patrick, that is one of the great highlights of the film. Although Lee has been away from his nephew, the two are so alike at times that they clash and at other times they lift each other up. Their dialogue is perfectly timed and often witty and hilarious, but they also share some truly beautiful and heartfelt scenes.

Manchester by the Sea is by all means not the feel good film of the year, but it proves that sometimes even a harsh outcome can be gratifying if the film is crafted with the sheer perfection that this one is.


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