Film Review: Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is rich with emotion and so finely executed that it lingers in the mind long after viewing.

After tragedy strikes, Lee is forced to travel to Manchester By The Sea to look after his nephew. Lee is a reluctant caregiver, as he feels closer to his past in the town…

Kenneth Lonergan exhibits a skilfulness in filmmaking and storytelling with the excellent Manchester By The Sea. The film is a masterclass in portraying grief. In spite of the bleakness of the subject matter, Lonergan’s film never becomes mawkish or melodramatic. Instead, it is taut, and subtle in conveying some harrowing incidents.

Writer-director Lonergan tells the story of a haunted man becoming the reluctant guardian of his nephew. The film is littered with flashbacks, which tells the story of Lee’s previous relationship with his nephew, with his brother, and with other members of his family. The film requires the audience to be patient in waiting for more details; these are revealed slowly and effectively. Lonergan’s eschews dropping these for shock value. Instead, these are careful placed, and more effective as a result.

Characters in Manchester By The Sea are so well drawn. Lee enters as a isolated, monosyllabic character. As more is revealed about his past, the reasons for his behaviour become clear. The story is not what some may expect from the film’s premise. What could have been an odd couple style comedy drama in different hands, is an exceptional drama in this case. Casey Affleck delivers an incredibly potent performance as Lee. Lucas Hedges is convincing as Patrick. Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler provides good support.

Kenneth Lonergan’s mastery is depicting darkness, but drawing this back every so often with naturalistic humour. Manchester By The Sea is a thoroughly convincing portrait of a broken man.

Manchester By The Sea is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.