|Lee and Patrick|
Affleck plays Lee Chandler: a visibly hurt, damaged, and discontented janitor who lives off nothing in a box room, tells his clients to fuck themselves, and starts fights in dive bars after-hours. We, as the audience, can clearly see that something is wrong - something deeply irreparable.
Gradually, through a series of flashbacks that inform the first half of the movie, we find out why.
Unfortunately, it is indeed a terrible truth: one which is too terrible, and too central, to mention here; and one which is sure to shake the audience to the core. I can't say too much of course, but one particular scene in which Lee shows his feelings incredibly strongly in a police office had me shivering with a mixture of fear, anxiety, and sadness. No, this isn't a happy film.
|The boat on which much of the film takes place|
This is the route the film pans down. After the death and the reunion, there is the funeral to plan - the arrangements of which cause disagreement between certain parties; the future of Patrick and Lee to plan out; and the reunion of Lee with his ex wife, Randi (played by Michelle Williams). In perhaps one of the most emotional scenes of the year, in the final Act of the movie, they run into each other - and have an honest conversation after avoiding each other for so long. It's heartbreaking, moving, and intense all at the same time.
Of course, the rock at the center of this whole production is the wonderful Casey Affleck. His Lee Chandler is brooding and intense; with a hard outer shell, but a bubbling emotional turmoil within. He is almost omnipresent throughout the entire picture, which becomes perhaps more of a character study of a broken man than anything else. The sadness in his eyes, the droop with which he walks, his mannerisms, and his distinctive styles all provide evidence to the fact that we are witnessing an actor at the top of his game. There are no cheesy lines to be found here, nothing dramatic: only honest, awkward mumbling and pure emotion. He's a shoe-in for Best Actor.
|Heart to heart|
Palate and cinematography wise, we're in the social realist category, so I guess when the weather's nice, it's nice, and when it's shit, it's shit. Being by the sea (it's in the title, duh) there's a lot of nice landscape action - but the focus of Lonergan's film is more on the character than the plot or the scenery. It more than suffices, however - and the picturesque views of the fishing village (no, it's not Manchester in England) are worth a look.
In the end, as you can see, 'Manchester by the Sea' is a supremely well made, incredibly affecting, and devastatingly powerful film that is aiming to masterpiece status - despite, to my mind, not quite reaching it. It's facets are bolstered by a career-best performance by Casey Affleck; and, even in the unlikeliest corners, it finds a glimmering sense of hope. It's just up to you, dear reader, to decide whether you want to gaze into the abyss before reaching it.
|'Manchester by the Sea' gets 4 stars!|