Everything you heard about Manchester by the Sea is true. All of it. It’s a moody, deeply moving film that gets under your skin and stays there. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan crafted a movie that takes place in a very specific region of the United States, but contains a relatable story, with recognizable characters. To me at least. And I know jack about New England.
And it’s funny. It’s not Marx Brothers funny, but Manchester by the Sea is not without humor. The characters are dry and sarcastic; a bit like those in Good Will Hunting.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a handyman living in Boston. He’s paid peanuts, but he does have a cruddy apartment to reside in. You can tell that Lee doesn’t like his lot in life, but he’s resigned to it.
One day Lee recieves a phone call telling him his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has been taken to the hospital. By the time Lee has driven all the way to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Joe passed away.
All Lee wants now is to get the paperwork, the wake, and all the formalities over with so he can get back to Boston. When Joe’s will is read, a giant monkey has been tossed into the wrench. Lee is named as guardian of Joe’s sixteen-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is blindsided, because Joe never told him about this. To further complicate things, Lee is expected to move back to Manchester which is the poopy icing on the crap cake.
Lee and Patrick used to be close. Now Patrick’s days are filled with school, hockey practice, band practice, and two girlfriends (Anna Baryshnikov, Kara Hayward). The two Chandlers can’t seem to relate to one another, and have differing opinions about the future. George (C.J. Wilson, playing the Noah Emmerich part) is one of the few people that will even talk to Lee, and he tries to help as best he can.
Much of Manchester by the Seas is told in flashbacks, in which we see Lee and Joe in better times. Both brothers are divorced; Lee from Randi, (Michelle Williams) and Joe from Elise (Gretchen Mol). Williams and Mol have little screen time, but each make a significant impact. Once you see the film, you will know why Michelle Williams is an Oscar nominee. No spoilers, but there is a scene near the end of the movie, and it’s devastating.
Manchester by the Sea recieved an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, and it’s well earned. Casey Affleck is up for Best Actor, and Kenneth Lonergan is nominated for Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. This may be the year of La La Land, but Manchester by the Sea deserves something.
Lonergan as both writer and director kept things true to life; or at least as some of us know it. Manchester by the sea reflects a lot about human nature, if you pay close attention. One example is a scene with Lee in a bar that is paid off when we meet Randi’s current husband. At least that’s how I saw it.