“Manchester By The Sea” is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, and Kyle Chandler. The film is about a man who is forced to take care of his nephew after his brother passes away, and from there he is forced to battle some problems from his past.
I had heard nothing but universal praise for this film coming in, and that is always a double-edged sword. While, of course, I would rather hear just how amazing some film is, it also is hard for any movie to live up to expectations when it gets constantly hyped up. So, with that in mind, I came into the film very excited, but also reserved, so that I could get more excited by the end result.
Casey Affleck. Casey Affleck gives quite possibly the performance of the year in this film, as he gives a performance better than any Affleck has ever had. Affleck is unfathomably good as the lead, Lee, in this movie, as he gives the character emotions while being incredibly subdued and low key, while also having some moments of comedy and sincerity. Affleck transforms into this character and gives one of the most memorable performances I have seen in years.
Affleck is not alone, though, as the supporting performances are fantastic all-around. Michelle Williams, while not in the film all that long, is incredibly impactful in the moments she is. Williams is a scene stealer, and brings a down-to-earth, yet still brutally powerful performance that is certainly worthy of awards recognition. Along with her, Lucas Hedges is terrific as the nephew to Affleck in the film, playing the role of a witty, sometimes off-putting kid, but what I liked most about Hedges was that he felt genuine in how his character would act given the situation, as did the entire cast.
Emotion is what this film thrives on, and writer-director Kenneth Lonergan packs this movie with a brutal emotional punch with both his screenplay and his direction. This movie crept up on me and then hit me with more emotion than I could ever handle, and I give Lonergan all the credit in the world for making it all so impactful. The more we learn about Affleck’s character, the more we really feel and sympathize with everything he does, and that is thanks to both the performance and the director behind it. This was easily the most emotion I’ve felt in a movie all year, and it was all incredibly well deserved.
While the film can certainly bring you to heartbreaking low points, there are also some great lighthearted moments mixed along the way. The comedy, especially with the back and forth that comes from Affleck and Hedges is excellently done, and that has a lot to do with the fantastic script by Lonergan. The script is so brilliantly made to feel as real as possible, and the way in which Affleck and company use this script feels beautifully authentic, and it all just adds to the heft that this movie really creates.
There are moments both big and small that make this movie so magnificent, but it is really one sequence that puts “Manchester By The Sea” on its own level. No spoilers, but the more that is learned about these main characters, the more the film works to break you down, and I had my jaw dropped throughout this pivotal moment.
There are also flashes between the present and the past that are done flawlessly, and the flashbacks are always used intelligently to add something to a scene. Where many directors could have failed are with these flashbacks, but Lonergan again shows his incredible ability to seamlessly include important events in creative ways without ever making it confusing to the audience.
Only some minor flaws here and there, with some occasional moments of the plot that felt a bit unnecessary to add in, most of which were involved with Lucas Hedges’ character. His performance is great, and I liked his character a lot, but there were a few things Lonergan added that felt a bit strange for me.
Because of how brutally powerful some moments are in this movie, it makes the time between these moments feel a little dry, and sometimes a little slow. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was ever bored throughout the entirety of the movie, but I certainly was not as enthralled as I wanted to be, especially in comparison to the heart-shattering moments that do take place.
“Manchester By The Sea” is a beautifully directed, phenomenally acted, and deeply moving film that will not be escaping my memory for quite a while. Casey Affleck makes himself an immediate A-list star with a performance for the books, and Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges are both terrific as well, and I was amazed at just how hard “Manchester By The Sea” really hit me in the feels. This is a movie that will surely be around come Oscar season, and deservingly so.
What did you think of “Manchester By The Sea”? Comment below with your thoughts.