Manchester by the Sea Review:

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a troubled Janitor who returns to his former town after his brother, played by Kyle Chandler, dies. The masterful film details the trouble Lee Chandler has dealing with his brother’s death, taking care of his now orphaned nephew, and dealing with the past he tried to forget.
Going into “Manchester by the Sea” I had expected to cry. The trailers for this movie make it very clear that this is not a lighthearted or easygoing tale. What I did not expect is to be so fundamentally moved by the film in the chilling way that it plays out. “Manchester” quickly dashes expectations, with the first few scenes offering a humorous and somber look on Affleck’s Lee Chandler, who works as a janitor. Until he gets a call that his brother is in the hospital. Backed by an ethereal score, you realize the film is going to be a ride for the ages.
Returning to his hometown after his brother’s passing, Affleck quickly shows the magnificent acting that has dominated many awards conversations the past year. Affleck is not alone though, as Lucas Hedges, who plays his nephew, and Michelle Williams, who plays his ex-wife, are both powerhouses in their own right.
As Affleck begins making funeral arrangements for his brother, he learns that his brother wanted Lee to be his son’s guardian, much to his disdain. Grappling with the idea of taking care of his nephew begins to bring up bad memories for Lee, who is shown through flashbacks to previously have had children with his ex-wife Randi (a.k.a. 8th wonder of the world Michelle Williams). Lee also struggles with his nephew Patrick, who knew his father’s heart problems meant a shorter life but is still having problems processing.
“Manchester” has no big resolution. Its wonder comes from the smaller moments that move you and amaze you. The humor is biting, dry, and coated in grief. Throughout the film, flashbacks show Affleck’s past and show why he has become a troubled and distant man. Each flashback is more moving and profound than the last and makes the grief that fills the movie more heart wrenching. The film does not unload a sad scene on you all at once to make you cry, it quietly weaves a masterful story of a grieving man who has led a hard life.
=== SPOILERS ===
The true power of the film comes in the most revelatory flashback of the film, where a drunk Lee walks home from a gas station. With a haunting score following, you quickly realize something is not right, only to hear a distant siren. Lee comes home to house in flames and his wife screaming in agony that her children are in the house.
The whole scene plays out as a punch to the gut, with Affleck staring in disbelief at what is happening before him. Affleck’s tour-de-force acting is not done yet though. After being questioned by the police and let go, he grabs a cop’s gun and tries to kill himself. The scene is so shocking and so searing that I do not think I will ever forget it.
“Manchester” effortlessly captures the authenticity that most movies strain to achieve. The films heavenly score and smooth cinematography help solidifies the film as one of the best films about grief of all time (and in my opinion one of the best films of all time). The film took a part of me when I watched it, something that you must witness to truly understand. I could rave about the film for days, but to understand the feeling that the film gives, you have to see it yourself. Every piece of the film is so masterfully crafted, easily putting it as one of the best films of the year. “Manchester by the Sea” is one of those quiet marvels that has the makings to become a classic.
Cast: A+
Script: A+
Cinematography: A
Score: A+
Overall: A+


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