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Manchester By The Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Released 13 January 2017
Director Kenneth Lonergan
Starring


Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol
Writer(s) Kenneth Lonergan
Producer(s)


Lauren Beck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward, Kevin J. Walsh
Origin United States
Running Time 133 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating 15A
88

Waves of emotion.

I went to see La La Land in a packed screening in Dublin city centre the day after I saw Manchester by the Sea. La La Land (which, incidentally is one of the most tedious films I've seen in a while) provoked "oohs" and "aahhs" from the audience, while Manchester by the Sea provoked a chorus of sniffles and frantic gulping as people fought to hold in the tears. Now, received wisdom would say that in gloomy January, a technicolour musical would be the film of choice but personally, I like to wallow. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to sell Manchester by the Sea as a straight forward weepie; it is a beautifully nuanced, immaculately performed piece of filmmaking that makes you laugh as well as cry. Just what a fragile January soul calls for if you ask me.

Casey Affleck stars as Lee, a maintenance man working on apartment blocks in Boston city. His day to day life is monotonous and isolated, as he goes from work, to the bar, then home alone. And repeat. When Lee receives a phone call to tell him his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed away, he makes the journey back to his hometown – a place that clearly holds demons for him, mostly related to his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). When Lee is unexpectedly given guardianship of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), the story follows the pair as they try and salvage some kind of life from the wreckage.

Writer director Kenneth Lonergan has produced a pitch perfect drama in Manchester by the Sea. The film has a complex structure which jumps between time periods as Lee's back-story is slowly revealed so as to give maximum emotional impact. Within this framework, Affleck gives the performance of his already impressive career. From his constantly shifting eyes to his slightly hunched posture, Affleck shows us so much about his character while saying very little. The on screen partnership with newcomer Hedges is spot-on, as the characters knock heads and struggle to re-capture the close relationship they once had. Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler have less on screen time but what they do have is unforgettable.

Manchester by the Sea is a beautiful film that packs an incredibly powerful emotional punch but nonetheless has a natural take on the absurd nature of life and death. For me, the perfect film for a gloomy January.

- Linda O'Brien