Manchester by the Sea (2016)

R   |    |  Drama


Manchester by the Sea (2016) Poster

A depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.

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7.8/10
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  • Casey Affleck and Declan Baldwin in Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Casey Affleck and Jeff Bezos at an event for Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Kevin J. Walsh in Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Gretchen Mol and Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Casey Affleck and Declan Baldwin in Manchester by the Sea (2016)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


10 October 2016 | neverever121
10
| Lonergan's beautifully understated writing, and Affleck's stunning performance, create a powerhouse picture that will surely sweep awards
I was very pleased to snag a last minute returned, lone available ticket to the European premiere of this on Saturday as I'd heard a lot of great things about this film and it had been sold out.

The premise is simple: when his brother Joe dies, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is forced to take care of his teenage nephew in his hometown, from which he moved away years earlier to escape his demons from a trauma years earlier.

It becomes clear early on that Lee had life figured out years earlier. The film jumps between the past and the present, revealing a time where Lee was married, spent a lot of time with his friends and family (especially his brother and his nephew) and was content with life. But while jumping between the two periods of time, the film travels along at a slow, tense pace, tentatively revealing facets of Lee's past and present personalities (which are remarkably different) before hitting the audience with the full force of what exactly what made him run from his hometown.

Casey Affleck is astonishingly good and it's no wonder that there is a strong early buzz around his performance. He essentially plays two different characters, a man before trauma and a man after. The 'before' in flashbacks is fairly simple, a relatively friendly and happy-go-lucky guy who spends a lot of time with his friends and family, has a close relationship with his nephew, etc. But where he excels is in the quiet desperation of the present-day Lee Chandler. With this character there are only rare moments of outward emotion - but Affleck plays it so that it is painfully clear just how much hurt Lee is keeping inside. Best Actor Oscar nomination, and highly possible win, incoming.

Despite the serious subject matter, there is a surprising warmth that permeates the film. This is a film primarily about a man forced to confront his demons, yes, but it is also a film about family and the ties that bind us to our hometown. There is a terrific chemistry between Affleck's Lee and Lucas Hedges, who plays his nephew Patrick. Make no mistake, despite its subject matter this film is often hilarious, with the dialogue between Lee and his nephew providing most of the frequent outbursts of laughter in the cinema. Owing to his detachment and fear, Lee is fairly useless as a caregiver to Patrick, who in turn pushes his limits in being allowed to do whatever he wants (mostly chasing girls - there are particularly hilarious scenes when he is trying to get laid).

Affleck's Lee is also forced to confront his demons in the form of his now ex-wife Randi, played by the ever-brilliant Michelle Williams. It's actually a relatively small part, but a key one, with an especially important scene that is played beautifully by both Affleck and Williams. In the Q&A that took place before the film, Williams talked about how she had spent 15 years wanting to work with 'Kenny' Lonergan, the director, as he is such a beautiful writer, and so she jumped at the chance before she'd even really heard detail about the part.

And it's clear to see why she would be so desperate to work with Kenneth Lonergan, whose writing and directing for this film is gentle, warm and heartbreaking in one package. It's bleak, but hints at hope. It's understated, but breaks out in small moments of agony without overdoing it (the middle of the film is particularly gut-wrenching). I would be very surprised not to see nominations in his direction also.

Beautiful writing and directing from Kenneth Lonergan, and a stunning performance from Casey Affleck in particular. It's a beautiful, quiet picture encapsulating trauma, guilt, redemption and familial bonds.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Matt Damon was initially set to direct and star in the film. Back in 2011, Damon, concerned about Kenneth Lonergan's 'horrible limbo', wanted to do something nice for his friend. So he sat in Lonergan's Manhattan apartment and pitched him an idea for a script about a New England handyman who ends up with custody of his dead brother's teen son - a story Damon thought would be right up Lonergan's dark alley. The idea for Manchester by the Sea actually was hatched by John Krasinski. Krasinski shared his nascent pitch with Damon over dinner in 2011 during the filming of The Adjustment Bureau (2011) (in which Damon co-starred with Krasinski's wife, Emily Blunt). They actually grew up a few bus stops from each other in Massachusetts - Damon in Cambridge, Krasinski in Newton. Damon liked Krasinski's idea so much, he considered not only starring in the film but also making it his directorial debut. They wasted no time heading to New York to pitch Lonergan. Embroiled in his Margaret (2011) troubles (the film was being held up from release by a lawsuit filed by producer Gary Gilbert, who was demanding a shortened re-edit that Lonergan was refusing to make) and committed to other stage projects, it took Lonergan a couple of years to get a first draft written. By then, Damon's schedule had filled up and he'd had second thoughts about directing the project, although he still wanted to star in it. Lonergan, meanwhile, finally had seen movement on Margaret (the film had a limited release in 2011; the court case was settled in 2014) and was starting to think about stepping behind a camera again. "He came back with this 150-page draft. It was too long, but it had everything that was in the movie." Damon urged Lonergan to make Manchester by the Sea (2016) his next directing job. Even with Damon still attached to star and produce, financing was hard to come by. And then, another blow: Damon had to drop out as the lead because of a slew of other commitments that would have delayed production for years. He recruited childhood friend Casey Affleck to take his place.


Quotes

Patrick: Who you gonna shoot, you or me?


Goofs

The shot of Route 128, from when Lee is first driving to Manchester, doesn't make sense. If he's going from Quincy to Manchester, he would be on the other side of the highway, and the rest stop and sign for the local theater would be visible, but from the other side. He would also be going uphill, not downhill. The way the shot is set up would imply he's going in the opposite direction of Manchester.


Alternate Versions

In Australia, the film was originally passed MA-15+ uncut, however the distributors opted to re-edit the audio and cut the length of the film, in order to remove every use of the term 'c-t' and 'motherf--er'. Following these changes the film was later re-classified and the rating was lowered to 'M'.


Soundtracks

Pifa (Pastoral Symphony) -The Messiah
Written by
George Frideric Handel
Performed by Musica Sacra Chorus & Musica Sacra Orchestra (as Orchestra)
Conducted by Richard Westenburg
Courtesy of Sony Classical
by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

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