Manchester by the Sea (2016)

manchester-by-the-sea-review

Grief’s a bitch. There’s no getting around it. I have been lucky enough to not experience it in my adolescent life thus far, but I have seen the profound impact it has had on people close to me. It isn’t an easy thing to go through and can threaten to entomb anyone in a coffin of sorrow and despair. Most movies, in attempting to depict this, fall into an abyss of melodrama and manipulation. Such is not the case with Manchester by the Sea, which paints a striking portrayal of grief and loss, whose rock-hard essence lingers in the mind for days and weeks.

The film stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a Boston handyman who is called back to his hometown after a death in his family, forcing him to readdress an earlier tragedy that had taken place there years before. Like much of writer/ director Kenneth Lonergan’s previous work it’s beauty lies in the subtle and quieter moments which is what also makes it so authentic, true to life and powerful.

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Lonergan’s screenplay is astonishingly good. The film unfolds like a careful peeling away of the layers of an onion — which wonderfully compliments Lonergan’s unique structure. Everything is done with such subtlety and grace that when the plot-reveals do come, they hit you in the most powerful way possible. And though this is an extremely bleak film, it still manages to find little moments of lightheartedness, which makes it all the more rewarding of an experience. It’s naturalism is uncanny.

None of it would be possible ofcourse, without the outstanding performances, led by a monumental one by Casey Affleck. There are no showy hysterics, no swinging for the fences here. Just authenticity and naturalism. And watching the emotional journey his character forgoes as each layer of emotional impassivity is stripped down makes for one of the most outstanding acting showcases I’ve witnessed in recent times.

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The supporting performances from Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams are amazing aswell, even if they aren’t quite upto Affleck’s level. Lucas Hedges, a relative newcomer at this point, has a similar, unforced naturalism to his performance. While, Michelle Williams, who is in some of the most emotionally moving and crucial scenes of the film nearly steals the show from Affleck.

But ultimately, I guess what makes Manchester by the Sea such a brilliant piece of work is it’s acute observations on the human condition, it’s empathy for it’s characters aswell as it’s humility for the subject. It’s an ode to the shambling, messy specifics of a life enclosed in anguish, and how there are some afflictions you simply can’t recover from.

This is as real as it gets.

9.1/10

-Khalid

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10 responses to “Manchester by the Sea (2016)

  1. Yout last line is a killer man, that is phenomenal writing! I guess because it so sums up the experience as I saw and felt it. I. Loved. This movie, even if, yeah…..it’s far from the happiest thing I’ve ever seen!

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    • Er, rather thE last line in the last paragraph. (Although, yes, very much this is as real as it gets! Very much agreed there too.) I just really think this is perfect: ” It’s an ode to the shambling, messy specifics of a life enclosed in anguish, and how there are some afflictions you simply can’t recover from.”

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  2. “This is as real as it gets.” And as boring as it gets. Haha. My boyfriend and I are both cinephiles and just couldn’t get into this one at all. Your review sells it though, but this one wasn’t for me :\

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  3. That first line is an amazing way to start a review. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this. Very slow and although there were amazing moments with amazing performances, the scenes in between were painfully snail-like.

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    • Thanks. I can definitely understand that. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But personally, it all just worked really well for me and I really admired the authenticity of the film and performances.

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  4. I was not sure that Mr Affleck will able to carry the entire film ,after watching the film he knocked it out of the park very tone down and powerful also the editing is top notch performance wise I have few problems with Lucas , but it’s not much direction is subtle and non pretentious. Only problem I have is background score it’s pointless for most parts and bad in emotional scenes

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    • Yeah Lucas Hedges is a real revelation here. Affleck may carry the film but Hedges very much holds his own and manages to even steal a few scenes from Affleck.
      And I agree about the score. It doesn’t bring any real heft to the story and could have been far better.

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