MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : A DEEPLY AFFECTING AND MASTERFULLY EXECUTED DRAMA
DIRECTED BY: Kenneth Lonergan
STARRING: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams
SCREENPLAY BY: Kenneth Lonergan
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is a tale of great sadness and redemption; in the midst of the beautiful scenery of the coast of Massachusetts and the North Atlantic this saddening and affecting drama manages to ultimately show that hope in tomorrow will always live if we find a place for it.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a busy janitor and handyman, quiet and reserved, yet battling personal demons and a haunting past that seem to have put a stranglehold on any sense of normalcy he may seek. When he learns he has been named the legal guardian of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), upon the sudden passing of his brother, Lee must revisit some of the pains of his past. Dealing with the responsibilities of arranging his brother’s affairs and caring for the alienated Patrick, old faces resurface and hurtful memories take form again.
Written and directed by Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is a deeply poignant work of film that is accentuated by strong lead performances from Affleck and Hedges particularly. Affleck’s Lee is a scarred and sympathetic everyman, and one whom it is very clear is bottling his emotions deep inside. Hedges’ Patrick, on the other hand, presents a young man attempting to hide his grief with a bevy of extracurricular activities and girlfriends, yet still vulnerable and childish despite his desire to be an ‘adult’. Together these two characterizations make for some very emotional and compelling storytelling; interspersed with moments of levity and comedy, we see that life does indeed move on, even if we think it never will.
While it may seem that this film is a completely melancholy outing, it has much beauty in it as well. Lee, Patrick and other characters are indeed plagued by gloomy events but their well-rounded development (thanks to the performances and the solid screenplay) brings a level of pathos that we seldom see on the screen; furthermore, the cinematography and musical selections bring a beautiful infusion of natural and artistic majesty into the mix.
The coastal settlements of Massachusetts make for some charming vistas, while scenes of the open sea are colorful and spacious. The musical soundtrack is also an ever important character that plays an integral role in some of the raw emotions of the film. Though an original score was composed by Lesley Barber, it is Lonergan’s use of classical baroque pieces that make a lasting impression. Including works from Handel, what is perhaps the most effective and emotional is the Albinoni/Giazotto masterpiece Adagio in G Minor that is masterfully used to compliment some distressing scenes. (See above)
With a combination of terrific acting leads, an emotional and real screenplay/direction, and superb visual and musical elements, Manchester by the Sea is a first-rate movie that leaves a deep impression on its audience. As the major awards season, fast approaches expect this excellent and well-crafted drama to catch the eyes of juries, and all those seeking a cathartic and rewarding movie-going experience.