YouTube: Manchester by the Sea Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Casey Affleck Movie

Fresh from winning its Best Original Screenplay and Best Lead Actor BAFTAs, Manchester By The Sea has been raved about by many. My personal interest has wavered since its production was announced a few years ago: the plot and general tone intrigued me, Kyle Chandler’s casting was always going to please me, but Casey Affleck’s less so. And with that, and the media’s reluctance to sully the reputation of an Affleck despite his past, my interest all but died. Films like Hidden Figures and Moonlight sparked my interest more, and Manchester By The Sea became a film that I expected to win awards, but lacked interest in.

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I was, however, keen to see the majority of Best Picture nominees, and Manchester By The Sea was one I hadn’t ticked off my list, so I went and saw it in the hope that Casey Affleck wouldn’t ruin the film for me. Fortunately, he didn’t. Ultimately, I found it hard to take to his character for obvious reasons, but the film itself was really rather good.

Affleck plays Lee, a janitor who returns to his titular hometown to care for his nephew (the scene-stealing Lucas Hedges) after the death of his brother (the unfortunately underused Kyle Chandler). His and Patrick’s (Hedges) grief is the theme that carries the film; we explore Lee’s past with a number of flashbacks, allowing the audience to witness the unravelling of his life and marriage (to Michelle Williams’ Randi) up until this point. Kenneth Lonergan has crafted the film very intricately to depict grief at its most heart-wrenching. Just as you think things couldn’t get much worse for Lee, aspects of his past are revealed to the audience to make you sympathise all the more.

The performances are good, if not as stellar as I had been expecting, given the rave reviews and award nominations of Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams in particular. As aforementioned, though, Lucas Hedges shines as sullen, grieving teen, Patrick. Patrick isn’t the most likeable character (juggling two girlfriends at once), but Hedges does his best to win you over. He’s very funny,and pulls off the grumpy teen stereotype without it feeling recycled or clichéd. His Best Supporting Actor nomination is very well-deserved.

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I did find the first half an hour or so to drag a little – it felt like Lonergan was mistaking subtlety for blandness slightly – and there are some strange choices in regards to the score, mostly when the music is used, rather than its quality. I’m sure there are reasons behind those choices, but it didn’t quite agree with me.

Ultimately, Manchester By The Sea is a very good film. Lonergan’s depiction of grief is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and Casey Affleck’s performance is very good. Both, however, are far from the best I’ve seen this awards season.

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4/5 stars