Manchester by the Sea Film Reviews
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By Richard von Busack December 2, 2016
People are praising Casey Affleck's acting in Manchester By the Sea, and he'll probably get the Oscar for it—it's a solid, often surprising, sometimes monotonously drilling performance.
Affleck's usually cracked voice is sure and under control. He can be menacing and enigmatic at times, playing a character who has all but tattooed himself with the mark of Cain. The mild yet ominous stare gives way, when his character, Lee, drinks—devolving into a sucker punch at a local bar, or a fist through a pane of glass.
Affleck's Lee has sentenced himself to a cell-like basement apartment in Quincy, Massachusetts. He's the handyman at a homely complex of brick apartments. Even a menial job can be lightened by human contact, but Lee resists conversations. A cute tenant (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) confesses her crush on Lee to a friend on the phone, not realizing Lee is in earshot. He doesn't respond. Ultimately this handyman is forced by an unexpected death to return to the small coastal town that he left in disgrace years before. Due to a surprise in his brother's will, Lee has been saddled with the guardianship of the 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) whom Lee hasn't really seen in a decade or so.
Writer director Kenneth Lonergan has made masterpieces. I don't think Manchester By the Sea is one. Compared to the startling, against-the-grain view of a too-sure-of-herself adolescent in Margaret, or the shifts of moods and rays of hope in You Can Count On Me, this is a straightforward lament. It advertises its seriousness, with Handel sobbing on the soundtrack and the sad prettiness of its snowscapes and seascapes.
Sudden and inexplicable death unites his three directorial efforts, but if there's one thing that Lonergan does particularly well, it's watching adolescents...or the adults who haven't totally outgrown their adolescence, like Mark Ruffalo's character in You Can Count On Me. Patrick is such an acutely observed teen, with no special potential, and capable of minor trouble. He's a bruiser on the hockey rink, and he plays in a band. (Someone on his talent-free garage ensemble was sharp enough to crack a dictionary and select the name "Stentorian" for the group.) The contrast of his lightness to the somber Lee keeps winning the day. Patrick's sudden flashes of childish helplessness seem true.
Thanks to the clumsily integrated flashbacks, the night Lee had his heart burned out seems blatant, as rigged-up as an anecdote in a temperance melodrama. To its credit, Manchester by the Sea doesn't resolve this matter with slickness. The healing isn't instantaneous, the result of, let us say, the appealing kid or the entrance of a manic pixie dream girl. But Lonergan does ratify Lee's depressed funk and Catholic guilt, honoring its impenetrability. Nobody can really crack Lee's shell, even the ex-wife reaching out to him. She's played by Michelle Williams, with a monologue that looks like a highlight, mostly because of the tremendous speed with which she reaches its apex. It's turn-on-a-dime acting.
Other major female characters not up to Lee's solemness: Gretchen Mol as Patrick's mother, who was once a degenerate drunk and now is living the clean life, married to a steady Connecticut bore. He's played by Lonergan regular Matthew Broderick, the most Caucasian actor alive. Cut off from women he can trust—the young girls in his life are just for play—Patrick has a reason for bonding. The two men are happiest on the family fishing boat where they're really free.
In those boating scenes, it's easy to sink into movie pleasure and ignore the circumstances of their bonding. Rather than grounds for tragedy, it seems like the springboard of an old sitcom. In contrast with Lonergan's previous films, there's not so much counterpoint with the women's point of view. When you have a mostly male movie, the men are always going to be in the right somehow: their sullenness is honorable, not to be disturbed.
By Dave February 13, 2017
I watched this movie based on its high score, I found the movie to be too long and maybe should have been edited down to 90 minutes or less. I usually go for exteneded versions of movies as I like to really get into the characters and don't normally like it to be over to quickly.
This was one of those occasions where instead of entertainment it was a chore to watch, I didn't find the actors performances anything special or the context of the story.
Overall very boring and if I am going to score this it would be a 1 out of 10. I did stick with it to the end and gave it its best shot, but not for me.
By lasttimeisaw February 16, 2017
American dramatist Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature, after his career has been punishingly stalled by the ill-fated MARGARET (2011), made in 2005 as a much-anticipated follow-up to his sterling debut YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000), then embroiled in the lawsuit purgatory with the film’s producers and only would be permitted for a limited release 6 years after, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA impacts as a resounding comeback and it is as good as you can get while toiling away with thumping grief and inconsolable guilt.
Lee Chandler (Affleck), a building janitor in Boston, he is the dour and withdrawn everyman type who distances himself from rest of the world and occasionally courts unwarranted bar brawl to unleash the smothering anger, so routinely the film will slowly mine into his profoundly buried tale-of-woe which would explain how he has fetched up to the current walking-dead state, and in this case, it is a helluva calamity, the most heart-rending accident could ever happen to a parent, and he has no one but himself to answer for. Receiving the news that his brother Joe (Chandler) died in a sudden heart attack, brings Lee back to his hometown, the titular Manchester-by-the-Sea where flashback adroitly interleaves into the narrative to refresh Lee’s memory (edited with pellucid correlations with what he experiences now) where the concealed secret incubates, and would eventually unfolds in the murky, snow night accompanied by Tomaso Albinoni and Remo Giazotto’s ADAGIO IN G MINOR, a sublime sequence transmits a synesthetic frisson which can knock dead its armchair viewers.
In Joe’s will, he names Lee to be the guardian of his son, the 16-year-old high-school jock Patrick (Hedges), which takes Lee aback, a resultant, seemingly life-affirming uncle-nephew bonding process takes its spin sensibly on veracity and wrestles with both Patrick’s suppressed grievance toward his father’s demise (Lee’s heart condition has been long diagnosed, so that it is more like a time-bomb ticking situation), and Lee’s attempt to re-settle in the town on the face of aghast memories and unrelieved penitence, in a pivotal scene, when Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Williams) pleads him for forgiveness and reconciliation after she has been finally capable of moving on to form a new family and embrace a new life, but feels obliged to proffer some extrication for him too, but things are different for the culpable party, not everyone can make peace with the past, however rational it might sound, some pain can be alleviated through time but other stays, thus one must brave himself to live with it for the rest of his life, that is the affirming life-philosophy Lonergan tries to pass on to his audience through studiously delving into the realistic double-bind based on an über-dramatic back-bone, which appears to be an abiding mythos in all his three directorial works to date.
Casey Affleck finds his footing in inhabiting Lee with a simmering intensity underneath his alternatively inscrutable/apathetic/distraught veneer, a performance is so aptly up his alley (a combo of hang-dog frustration and whimpering elocution) and to call it the performance of the year wouldn’t be such a stretch. Michelle Williams, shoe-horned in a peripheral role, but manifests herself as a sniveling and imploring scene-stealer just in one scene, she dangles us with immense curiosity about how her character has gone through the catastrophe, but essentially this film is Lee’s story. Lucas Hedges gets a windfall for being cast in a plum role and nominated for an Oscar, which could be a double-edged sword for the future of his budding career, but as credible and affecting as his portrayal is, the credit should mostly given for Lonergan’s well-rounded script of a rather bratty teenager; also Kyle Chandler is virtually next-in-line for a renaissance on the big screen after starring a string of high-caliber Oscar-baits, from ARGO, ZERO DARK THIRTY (both in 2012), to THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013), CAROL (2015) and now this, all in small roles but his presence looms larger each time.
The cinematography is bracingly crisp and un-showy, a modest production design and an unobtrusive score borrows many classical pieces, MANCHESTER BY THE CITY is a contemplative continuation in the aftermath of a latter-day Greek tragedy, which elevates Lonergan’s status as one of the most outstanding cinematic story-teller currently from USA soil, and one can bet, co-producer Matt Damon must secretly rue the day that he couldn’t commit himself to Casey's role which would have earned him a coveted Oscar statuette as an actor, and in hindsight, his preference to star in Zhang Yimou’s Chinese monster fantasy THE GREAT WALL (2016) now looks like a dumb decision.
By Reno February 25, 2017
**The life doesn't reflect how we want.**
First of all it was not based on any book, but you can see that book kind of effect in the storytelling. One of the best original screenplay, I won't be surprised if it wins the Oscars for that. I actually struggled in the opening to catch the storyline. Because the past and present overlapped while sharing the presentation alternatively. But it was about the present with flashbacks popping out regularly to join the tale by comparing/revealing the earlier events. So after few occasions, I got used to it and enjoyed my rest of the watch.
I always love good drama films. But not all the drama films I have seen are the masterpiece. So despite it was received so well from all the quarters, I kept my expectations low. The initial parts were okay, but its only during the final stage I begin to like it more. Especially the Casey's performance. I have seen him in many great films, in the big roles, but I think this one is his best, particularly from the positive perspective of the character he had played. Looks like the decade belongs to Affleck brothers. They have given great performances recently and acted in the great films that will be remembered for a long time.
This is the story of the Lee, a man who works as a janitor. One day he receives a call that his brother had passed away as he was suffering from the illness for a some time. Since his brother got divorced, all the responsibility comes under his belt, including his teenage son. Now those two struggles to join the force, but somehow manages all. Meanwhile, till the conclusion, the Lee's life before that point were disclosed to us, like how he struggled in his own life before coming to end in the current situation.
I could be wrong, but Casey Affleck's going to win the Oscars for his performance. Andrew Garfield is the other guy standing between his chance. I'll be happy whoever wins between them. I like Michelle Williams, but her Oscars nominee is meaningless. What, she appeared for 10-15 minutes in the entire narration which can be tagged as a guest appearance than a full fledged role. This is a fine drama, one of the year's best, deserved all the Oscars nod it got. Surely worth a watch and I recommend it.