Manchester by the Sea (2016)

7:38 AM

What goes on by the sea?
This review contains Spoilers
 Manchester by the Sea is directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, Margaret) and stars Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone), Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, The Zero Theorem) and Michelle Williams (Shutter Island, Blue Valentine). "An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies". Manchester by the Sea has earned 6 Oscar nominations - including nods in three of the big four - Picture, Director and Leading Actor. Are those nominations deserving? Should they become wins?



Manchester by the Sea really caught me off guard - it is a brilliant film and surpassed all of my expectations. I saw three films in one day - this, Resident Evil 6 and Hidden Figures - I expected the latter to be my favourite by far but no, Manchester by the Sea just manages to edge out Hidden Figures. I think the reason why I liked the film so much is that I can relate to it and I also appreciate that it doesn't try to sugar-coat anything - it's honest, raw and truthful. Another film this awards season I would be happy to see take home the gold.

I think this is definitely not a film for everyone - I went with two others and one of them absolutely hated the film. It is important to note that the film essentially has no narrative but instead focuses on an episode of someone's life. Manchester by the Sea also has quite a length running time - 135 minutes. I'm not someone who can usually sit through a long film easily and the fact that Manchester by the Sea doesn't have too much going on but I was happy to sit through it and continue watching is saying something. I just think the film took its time and was very faithful to how real people would act in situations like this. The film begins and Lee's (Affleck) brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies. Then the rest of the film is the stage in the character's lives where they are grieving - the film ends as the family come to terms with what has happened and move on with their lives. As someone who dealt with grief from a pretty young age, I could relate so much to the story and what the characters were going through. Not only did Lee lose his brother but it is also revealed that his father has passed away as well. The film is also told from the perspective of Patrick (Hedges), Joe's son - we get to see the emotions of someone losing a father and someone losing a brother. However, I also think the film had the guts to be brutally honest. Patrick was at an age where he was loving life and the loss of his father didn't seem to bother him too much on the surface - he actually seemed to milk it at times. However, we then find out in a later seen that Patrick has been mentally affected and is broken inside. 

Manchester by the Sea is an extremely honest and raw film and I applaud it for that. Some people may think it is extremely depressing but time's like this in people's lives are very sad. There are also quite a few comedic moments which help to lighten the tones at times. In contrast to the other big awards contender this year, La La Land which is full of optimism and hope - Manchester by the Sea is much more grounded and true to real life - everything doesn't always go the right way for people and there will be trials and tribulations. These are seen just with the character of Lee - he struggles with his job, he struggles with money, he struggles with love, his brother has died and he had a tragic accident with his children that has scarred him forever. Lee is a much more real character and I think one that many viewers will be able to relate to. 

The performances in the film are very strong across the board. I am pretty sure I have never seen Casey Affleck on screen before but he has already made a very strong impression on me - Casey may impress me even more than his brother who has seen much greater success, Ben. What a talented family though?! Casey Affleck is very good - relatable and likeable and he adds some strength to his character and holds the whole film on his shoulders. I definitely would not complain if Affleck takes home the Oscar because his performance is good enough for it. The supporting cast are also very good - Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams have both earned themselves Oscar noms for their work and deservedly so. Williams doesn't have many scenes but she definitely impresses in every scene she is in and her character also importantly shows that not everyone deals with situations in the same way - Randi (Williams) is able to move on in some way from the tragic accident but when she wants to keep in contact with Lee, Lee does not want to and just isn't ready, despite time having past. Everyone in this film does an excellent job. 

Some extra praises I have are for the cinematography which is beautiful - this picturesque location is definitely utilised well. I also really liked how the film was edited - there was nothing too fancy but there were flashbacks and the film breaks convention by not actually making it clear when we are in the past. However, I think the film is aware audiences of Manchester by the Sea are going to be quite switched on and active - it doesn't feel like it needs to make it clear. I also want to defend the film in it being plotless and 'dull' - the first ever purpose of film was to capture reality and Manchester by the Sea essentially does just that. Yes, it may be fictional but it is very true to what people actually go through in times of grief. 

Manchester by the Sea is touching, honest and raw. The film isn't afraid to be truthful that things don't always work out - that's just life. The acting from Casey Affleck is brilliant, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges also do a great job supporting him. The narrative may be slow but the film is so captivating, that is ok. I really liked the film - part of that is because I can relate to it and I believe it is faithful to the emotions and experiences people go through. Take a trip and see Manchester by the Sea, it's worth it and one of my favourites this awards season.

86
/100

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