Monday, December 19, 2016

Movie with Abe: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Released November 18, 2016

There’s nothing quite like loss to change a person. The circumstances of that loss can compound it considerably, and someone may be completely unrecognizable after going through a devastating experience. “Manchester by the Sea,” from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, introduces its protagonist as he goes through the loss of his brother and flashes back to even more traumatic times that show his transformation from someone social, surrounded by family and friends, into a person far less willing to engage with the world around him for fear of ruining it all.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives in a small basement apartment in Boston, working as the janitor for his complex. Despite quality work, he frequently butts heads with residents due to little patience for them expressing their opinions. The sudden death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) forces Lee to confront a new reality in his life and flash back to happier moments from his past with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) as he is thrust into a role he is not sure he can fulfill as guardian of Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

“Manchester by the Sea” is a profoundly affecting film that masterfully melds devastating drama with heartwarming humor. The antisocial attitude Lee projects to the world lends to short sentences and unintentionally funny interactions, and that’s only amplified by the heavy Boston accent and unfiltered language used by both Lee and the surprisingly mature Patrick. Neither of them grieves in a typical way, and when pushed to respond as others might expect, they both push back just as hard, often going straight to insults rather than more polite tactics. An excellent script by Kenneth Lonergan, who also skillfully directs the film, is populated with stirring dialogue that says much with few words.

Affleck, who demonstrated his abilities to quietly carry characters in “The Assassination of Jesse James” and “Gone Baby Gone,” turns in a delicate and sincere portrayal of a broken man that is all but guaranteed to win him an extremely deserved Oscar. He is matched by Williams, in what may well be her best role yet, and young Hedges, who also deliver superb and stirring performances. The style of storytelling in Lonergan’s film, only his third in seventeen years, is exceptional, achieving a deep understanding of its characters and divulging important information about them in a very effective way. All elements of this film work together to create a rich and moving human experience.


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