My hometown, and where I so far have lived my entire life, is by no means very large. It can’t be considered small either, but it’s kind of in between. This certainly means that although I sometimes come across people I might know or have at least seen a few times, I don’t know everyone that lives here. Which is just as well I guess. Consider living in a very small village were everybody knows you. I for one would not like that at all. Everybody has his or her secrets or things they might not want to become public knowledge. But what if something happened in your past that everyone in your town would know about? Something so horrible that it pretty much influenced your entire life? I think it would simply be impossible to remain in that place. This is one of the things that Casey Affleck’s character has to deal with in the heartbreaking movie Manchester by the Sea.
Lee Chandler works as a janitor and handyman, a job that can not exactly be called glamorous, but at least it pays the bills. Lee is good at his job, but he can’t be considered a real people’s person. He lives a pretty solitary life in a basement, and doesn’t really get along with anyone. One day, Lee gets word that his brother Joe has had a heartattack. Lee rushes to the hospital, but unfortunately he arrives too late, as his brother has died. Joe had a son Patrick, a boy that Lee was very close with in the past. Patrick has now grown up and is a typical teenager. To Lee’s surprise and shock Joe has written in his will that he wants him to become Patrick’s guardian. This means for Lee to return to the town he grew up in, Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts. But there is a reason why Lee left that town. Because something very traumatic happened in his past, something so shocking that to date he is still affected by it. Will Lee be able to confront his past and in doing so take care of Patrick, or will the sins of his past drive him over the edge?
Manchester by the sea is a movie that is driven by two things: solid and decent acting and a heartbreaking story. Casey Affleck plays the role of Lee Chandler, a role which gave him his first Oscar and rightfully so. Affleck plays a character that is so human and wrapped up with guilt, that you can’t help but feel sorry for him. A movie such as this, depends on a performance by the actor, and Casey delivers one that can only be called astounding. But the role of Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges, is also one that definitely falls into that category. The onscreen chemistry between him and Casey, is also one of the reasons why this movie works so well. The rest of the cast, most notably Kyle Chandler who plays Joe, and Michelle Williams who plays Lee’s ex-wife also deliver powerhouse acting. Both Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams received an Oscar nomination for their roles, but they sadly did not win.
But no matter how good the performances by the actors are, if the movie has a bad script it fails. But it is also in this department that the movie shines. The story unfolds in the present, but also in the past through a number of flashbacks, that slowly bring to light what has happened to Lee Chandler. When that reveal finally comes you will definitely be shocked by it, I guarantee you that. The movie went on to also win the Oscar for best original screenplay which does not really come as a surprise. What we have here is a drama that relies heavily on dialogue and acting skills. It delivers a powerful story with solid performances and it is a movie that I highly recommend seeing. If you like your movies filled with explosions and carchases I would advise to stay away from it. But if you are someone who also likes to see movies that bring out the best in terms of story and acting, than this one is for you.
I give Manchester by the Sea a 9 out of 10 score.