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Manchester by the Sea: Movie Review

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Manchester by the Sea is honest filmmaking at its best. Every scene in this film could be a snippet taken from the life of any family experiencing grief or reeling from tragedy. Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan created a true portrait of a quintessentially New England life, or what I assume that life to be like, for two characters trying to put their lives back together.

manchester-by-the-sea-3Lee Chandler, played by I’m almost certain soon to be Oscar nominee Casey Affleck, is a working class janitor in Boston whose forced to return to Manchester by the Sea when his brother unexpectedly passes away. Lee is faced with accepting guardianship of his teenage nephew, Patrick, played wonderfully by Lucas Hedges. Lee struggles to fulfill his brother’s wishes; as ingrained as his nephew is in the town and community, Lee is quite the opposite. He has reasons to remain detached and refuse to return to Manchester. The two are exactly what one another needs to grieve as they struggle to pick up the pieces, console one another, and maintain their sense of humor.

manchester-by-the-sea-1The humor in this movie is deeply needed, and both actors deliver their demanding and charming performances effortlessly. At times Hedges reminded me of Matt Damon (a producer of this film) in Goodwill Hunting. He is a natural actor, and provided great contradiction as sweet and healthily coping Patrick to Affleck’s mess of an uncle Lee. Casey Affleck’s character ranges from deeply depressed, seemingly vacant and detached loner, to a joyful and content family man in flashbacks. Affleck wove some deadpan into Lee, which you’d think would be gone from someone who has dealt with insurmountable pain, yet he managed to keep some semblance of his former self. This provides the audience, and his nephew, with some hope for Lee. You are invested in the pair making it through, together, despite their divergent plans.

manchester-by-the-sea-2Manchester by the Sea is a movie devoted to its story. It is not trying to impress, it is just allowing us witness these tragic circumstances. We see commonplace conversations, just average blue collar guys trying to carry on as best they can. Lonergan slowly let’s us piece the details together little by little to understand why characters are how they are, to empathize and connect to them, and to wonder what will become of them. There are lingering scenes which help you take a moment and really spend time in these lives. The dialogue and editing takes its time, the pace makes the movie watching experience feel more natural. This isn’t for just entertainment’s sake, it is a thoughtful and realistic film. One to which you should not wear mascara.

This movie stands alongside some of my other favorite depictions of the average American life and its struggles. It reminds you that you just carry on, and that you should try and crack a joke once in a while even if you’re down. I look forward to watching more of Lonergan’s past and future films.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Director:  Kenneth Lonergan
Studio:  Roadside Attractions & Amazon Studios
Genre:  Drama
MPAA:  R
Release Date:  December 2nd, 2016
Author:  Roxy De La Rosa
Roxy de la Rosa Roxy and her dogs are San Diego natives all hailing from Baja. She is a graduate of SDSU with a bachelor's degree in Television, Film, and New Media Production. Roxy is a huge comedy film and sitcom fan who hopes to become a TV writer, but for now she spends her time "researching" Netflix when she should be writing.

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