Manchester by the Sea (15)
With an outstandingly brooding performance from Casey Affleck, this film is about a cantankerous loner drawn back by bereavement to the New England community where he grew up. There he has to deal with a spirited 16-year old and his own past.
“A gut-busting, heart-breaking film”
Kenneth Lonergan | USA | 2016 | 137 mins | 15
“This film has already been hailed as a masterpiece and I think it is.” Peter Bradshaw – Guardian.
“Contains multitudes of emotions, people and ideas, in such abundance that if you were to ask somebody to describe it, you should probably take a seat first”. – Roger Ebert.com
This is a drama of rare power, centred on a Boston janitor, Lee, who has to care for his nephew after his brother dies. The film is sad in that it examines grief closely, but is ultimately cathartic in a good way. There are long moments of sharp comedy so do not expect unalleviated gloom. There is realism and humanity, the characters are vivid and the plot is both intelligent and ingenious.
Casey Affleck plays Lee superbly – or rather he underplays him – so that he never presents as a tragic hero, just some bloke to whom things happen. We see him first as a silent scream waiting to explode and gradually come to see how he used to be. He is defeated now because he cannot beat any of the things life throws at him. He is also quiet in his grief. This is un-cinematic and so refreshingly unexpected in a film. Affleck won a Golden Globe, Oscar and Bafta for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Supporting actors, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges as Lee’s salty ex-wife Randi and nephew Patrick are excellent.
Visually and aurally the film reflects Lee’s depression and emotional distance. Manchester, Massachusetts is indeed by the sea, but it is a grim port with no shoreline and no attractions. The action takes place in wintery conditions and is largely filmed in muted colours, interspersed occasionally with flashes of brightness to highlight anger or rage. Lesley Barber’s strings and chorales certainly add to the mournful ambience, but are not without their own beauty. Watch out for moments of compositional genius in the film, particularly at the hockey match.
Production designer Ruth De Jong wanted the film’s location to be a kind of character in and of itself in the film. She said, “I really wanted it to feel as though you had stepped into this place. As though you weren’t watching a movie, you were watching these people’s lives unfold in front of you”. ‘This place’ in fact involved several locations in Cape Ann including the real Manchester by the Sea, 30 miles NE of Boston. You do indeed feel immersed in this realistic, honest and unflinching tale of loss and makeshift parenting. The grimness of Manchester by the Sea surrounds you, but somehow bestows its disarming grace upon you.
Weighted vote 88.3%