Movie Review – “Manchester by the Sea”.

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Somber, silent melodrama in fine form.

We have all experienced trauma and guilt in our lives; the way people deal with guilt and trauma is just now becoming widely discussed, as disorders such as PTSD are gaining more recognition.

Manchester by the Sea explores emotional distress and its long-term effects, and it does it with maturity, humor, depth, and nuance. It follows the story of a Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) who, when tragedy strikes his family, begins to take care of his 16 year old nephew.

It is by no means an entertaining film. Yet, it had me on the verge of tears in some scenes, while immediately cracking up in the next. Sometimes, even at the same time.

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The film moves at a slow but assured pace, with a mastery of the amount of information is fed to the audience. It never slows down, and it never misses a step. New events unfold and more and more complex information is revealed about the characters in the film. Every character is deeply and compassionately written, and we can sympathize with every one of them.

Manchester by the Sea lightly lifts us up off our feet and glides us slowly through the streets of Boston and Manchester, giving us a peak into Lee Chandler’s tragic life. It sets us back down seemingly right where we began, yet we have been hit with a 180 degree whirlwind of tragedy, loss, change, frustration, and honesty.

Casey Affleck anchors this film in one of the best performances of the year. His glum, realistic, and depressingly honest portrayal of Lee Chandler is endlessly intriguing to watch. He seems to hit every note, and even brings quite a bit of dark humor to the role.

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That isn’t without saying that the film is bolstered by a deep supporting cast that bring their characters to life. Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges are a few of the actors who populate the screen, bringing an eternally loving Bostonian charm with them.

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The script, penned by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, is honest, dark, comical, and complex. Yet, it is simple in its concentrated study of Lee’s life.

Silence fills the film for much of its running time, to its advantage. Many parts of the film are shown through silent montage, and we getting quite a few important parts of the story through purely visual storytelling. The other technical elements, including the ominous, steady cinematography combined with a color palette as bleak as the story, make for a convincingly melancholy movie.

See it.

Manchester by the Sea isn’t fun. But I believe it to be necessary. It is one of the few films that truly stuck with me after leaving the theater this year.

 

 

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