Manchester by the Sea: Film Review

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Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan has been receiving critical acclaim at film festivals and awards shows and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s heartbreaking, so, so sad, with absolutely incredible performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.

Affleck plays Lee, who is made legal guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges) after his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away. To do so, he must return to his hometown where he must confront his past, including his ex-wife Randi (Williams).

This all about Lee’s grief and sense of loss and learning to act as a parent to somebody when he’d rather continue the solitary lifestyle he has cut out for himself. You learn through a series of flashbacks that Lee was not always this cold, lonely person but devastating circumstances (which are genuinely heartbreaking) made him the way he is now.

Affleck does a fantastic job playing a character both before and after a life changing event and some of the flashback scenes are so emotionally gruelling to watch, let alone play. Hedges brings humour to the situation for the most part and their arguments and conversations are great to watch and his trivial teenage concerns (such as getting laid) provide a much-needed lightness and comic relief to the film so it’s not consistently dark and bleak. Williams isn’t in it as much I thought she would be but, damn, she packs an emotional punch with the screen time she does get. Affleck and Williams are so deserving of the nominations they are receiving.

I know this sounds very intense and sad, which it is, but don’t be discouraged by that, it’s so, so brilliant and tells one heck of a story.

Originally seen as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival. In cinemas now. 

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