Friday, May 5, 2017

Film Review: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Fandango Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...one of the best films of 2016."

When his brother passes away, a depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew.

Manchester by the Sea follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a Boston janitor and handyman. Lee has a bit of an attitude, which tends to get him into trouble. He is easily agitated, especially when he drinks. One day, he receives news about his brother's passing. So, he returns to his hometown of Manchester. While waiting for the funeral, he takes care of his teenage nephew, Patrick. He also learns that his brother wanted him to take care of Patrick, which is something he doesn't exactly want to do. Through well-timed and edited flashbacks, we learn about Lee's haunting past in Manchester, which explains his attitude. It leads to a simple but effective ending.


Manchester by the Sea is a powerful drama about depression, grief, and guilt/regret. It has a few more themes, too. The narrative focuses on Lee and Patrick, and their difficult situation. Lee tries to ease into Patrick's life and ultimately plans on taking him back to Boston while Patrick is adament about staying in Manchester—this is an effective conflict. The focus on Lee's character, however, shines brightest—or perhaps dimmest. The film doesn't sugarcoat Lee's depression. As a matter of fact, it often pummels you with his melancholy, causing you to choke up. There is some well-appreciated humor in this, though. It doesn't completely brighten the mood, but it helps. The only issue I had with the film was some minor pacing problems. I understand why some scenes linger longer than others, but a few of these scenes didn't deliver their intended purposes.

The acting was superb, though. Casey Affleck was stellar, as usual. He really immerses himself in his character, perfectly embodying depression. You can really see it in his eyes. The supporting cast was great, too. Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler were superb. The film was shot beautifully and the music perfectly fit the tone of the film. The film was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Lonergan crafts an intimate experience though his use of character and atmosphere. He captures the sensation of depression wonderfully. Through his writing and direction, he made me feel. That's something special.

Overall, Manchester By The Sea is a fantastic film. It's a powerful drama with meaningful themes. It's a human experience—for lack of a better term. It's not perfect, but it is perfectly effective. If you're looking for an emotionally-charged film, watch this. It's one of the best films of 2016.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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