Sundance Review: Manchester by the Sea

Score: A

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams

Running Time: 135 Minutes

Rated:  NR

There’s something to be said about how people deal with tragedy or strife. Some people suffer in silence, others cope with the help of others, and some use comedy to ease the pain. That being said, the world doesn’t slow down for anyone and sometimes it’s hard to catch back up.

It’s been a long Malickian-esque absence for director Kenneth Lonergan, but alas, he returns with his third feature film Manchester by the Sea, a mere 16 year gap since his feature debut with indie You Can Count On Me.

In Manchester by the Sea, we are introduced to a quiet broken man by the name of Lee (played wonderfully by Casey Affleck), a janitor who lives in Boston, working solely to keep his mind occupied so that he can forget some of his past mistakes. Affleck doesn’t miss a beat; his acting is as sharp as ever as he personifies a broken man on the verge of total catastrophe. After splitting with his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) after an unspeakable event, Lee soon dives into a tailspin once he receives news that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed. Chandler epitomizes what it means to be the patriarch of the family, and the film could have benefited if he had more screen time.

Lonergan’s script is easily one of the best of the last decade, rivaling the highly respected Aaron Sorkin. The difference is that Lonergan gives his script, like wine, a chance to breathe. The film, in a tonal sense, bears a strong resemblance of Five Easy Pieces. It is honest and direct, and most assuredly a film that will stick with you long after it’s over.

I commend it for never shying away from the pitfalls of heartbreak as it works to bear the burden and heartbreak of realism. Lonergan has evolved as a writer with a great ear and understanding of language. He has written his masterpiece, with a haunting portrayal of a family that keeps getting knocked to the ground with catastrophe and misfortune. He has a cadence that is unmatched in the business, breathing life into a seemingly straightforward plot; giving it just enough of a unique twist that it feels new all the same. Manchester by the Sea reminds us that sometimes the ball bounces your way, but sometimes it skips away and you just have to let it go.


About Matt Kerwin

Matt Kerwin

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