Saturday, February 18, 2017

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams,
Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a quiet loner with no social life who works as a janitor/handyman in an apartment block. One day, he is informed his elder brother Joe has died and appointed him as legal guardian of his 16 year old nephew, Patrick.  

Reluctantly, he is forced to return to his hometown Manchester to make funeral arrangements and reconnect with Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a popular high school student.  As he sorts through things in his brother's house, certain aspects of his painful past are revealed through flashbacks. Happy bonding times with Joe and a much younger Patrick as well as a very heartbreaking personal tragedy which explains the withdrawn, sad nature of Lee. A life altering incident which marred Lee's demeanor forever.

Filmed in a quiet New England town where fishing is the main source of livelihood for its inhabitants, the setting provides an appropriate backdrop for a film that tackles grief, depression and the state of moving on with a firm silent resolute. The somber, morose music though, in my opinion was too loud and dramatic for an already desolate story. 

An original script which was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret), the germ of the idea was pitched to him by his close friends actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski. Matt Damon was supposed to star and direct it but due to a conflict in his busy schedule (he was filming The Martian), he offered the role to Casey Affleck, the younger brother of his best friend, Ben. 

A good choice as Casey Affleck was able to dig deep into his character to deliver a moving and touching performance as Lee. Struggling to suddenly cope with being a 'parent' to a teenager with big plans as well as resettling in a town that reminds him of his painful past, his nuanced depiction is on point.

He has good rapport with Lucas Hedges, the actor who plays Patrick. Although I admit there were times I felt like slapping him for being a petulant and insolent teenager, it just shows how effective Hedges was in his role. I'm surprised that Michelle Williams was nominated as best supporting actress. Her role as Randi, Lee's ex wife was really brief and she had this exaggerated Boston accent which was irritating.

Manchester by the Sea is one of the poignantly sorrowful movies I've seen in a long time. It has just the right amount of drama, a bit of humor and a sound coping mechanism for its main characters. Highly recommended, just keep the tissues close by, you'd need it.

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