Manchester by the Sea (2016) Movie Review

By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a janitor in Boston who one day receives a call that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed away from congenital heart failure. He has to go back to the town of Manchester to help get all of Joe’s things together and watch his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee left Manchester probably around 5 to 10 years ago (it’s never specified the length of time) and he really doesn’t want to go back. Later, Lee finds out Joe has made him guardian of Patrick, and he is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Through flashbacks we find out Lee has an ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams, why he left Manchester all of those years ago, and why it’s hard for him to be Patrick’s guardian. Patrick is very adamant about not moving to Boston because he has so many things going on in his life. So Lee must decide what is best for himself and Patrick.

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A Toast

Kenneth Lonergan’s writing and directing is marvelous. It was so genius to have the story be told through flashbacks. This way we are able to see the story unfold intriguingly out of order, and all the while the characters are able to gradually yet fully form so that by the end of the film Lonergan’s characters are so richly written that you’ll feel like you personally know them. This film is a heavy film. I honestly didn’t expect it to be that heavy; however, that doesn’t mean I loved it any less. Even though the film is very heavy, Lonergan is able to insert genuine humor in as well. This film will have you heartily laughing at moments. The jokes aren’t forced, they feel natural. They work so well because they’ll remind you of sitting around busting your friends’ balls. His characters and writing are so real you’ll see people you know in Lee and Patrick.

The acting in this film is remarkable. Michelle Williams as Randi is as amazing as always even in the little time she has on screen. However, the real remarkable performances are Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges. Casey as Lee was so magnificent; we haven’t seen a performance like this from him maybe ever. He has almost always been in Ben’s shadow, but I feel like this film will give him some serious and great roles that will eventually land him an Oscar (if he doesn’t win this year.) It’s not just his acting in the scenes like when Randi asks him to lunch, which will tear your heart out, but it’s the scenes like when Lee is forced to sit and talk with Patrick’s girlfriend’s mother. They sit there as she attempts to converse but Lee just wants to leave. The humor and the awkwardness would be lost with two lesser actors, but it’s these scenes that really point to the greatness and subtlety of Casey’s performance.

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Lucas Hedges is the other remarkable performance in the film. This is a true breakout performance. I remember his as the young redhead in Moonrise Kingdom, but in this film he is able to truly shine. Not only is his acting great, but his chemistry with Casey only speaks to the talent these actors possess. Lucas is a vast talent that’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. I believe it’ll be Lucas and Mahershala Ali from Moonlight fighting it out for Best Supporting Actor.

I honestly think maybe the best thing about this film is the heartfelt emotion and realness of its story. The film is genuine and that’s what makes it so real and why its 137 minute runtime doesn’t feel long at all. The film will grab ahold of you and will take you on an emotional roller coaster for two hours; and once you get off you’ll find yourself sitting in your car in the parking lot reflecting on life, like my girlfriend and I did. I can’t wait to see this film again.

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Verdict

Manchester by the Sea will make you laugh and cry and reflect on life all in a two-hour period. This film will be a major player at the Oscars, and shot up to near the top of my top ten films of the year. I could not recommend this film more. If you want a good film to make you feel, go see this film.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every awkward moment with Lee.

Take a Drink: every time you laugh out loud.

Do a Shot: every time you cry or want to cry.

Do a Shot: every time you want to give Lee a hug.

Finish your Drink: while you’re reflecting on life itself.

 

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