Film Score: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)
Manchester by the Sea follows the period of life after lonely Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck), brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), dies. Frequent flashbacks reveal the brothers’ backgrounds and their former lives. The present focuses on Joe’s son, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges), who Joe left under the care of his loner brother. Lee doesn’t want to move from his Boston home to his hometown of Manchester where Patrick’s life is ensconced: he has two girlfriends, an established friend group, an indie band, and is a member of his high school’s hockey team. The movie shows the interactions between the uncle and nephew and their individual reactions to their brother/father’s death. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
This movie is not a holiday movie. It is not a happy movie. While it does have its share of comedic moments, it is a depressing examination of death, love, relationships, parenthood, and family. I was not a fan. But that is not to say the movie was not good or well made. Lonergan deftly portrayed New England, its attitudes, its life, and its scenery. The ensemble-cast phenomenally embodied their roles. Even the tenants of the apartment complex Lee serviced were amazing. So were the regulars at the local pub, as was Joe’s fishing partner, George (C. J. Wilson). Each only had less than a minute of screen time, yet they managed to fully develop themselves in those brief moments. Lonergan’s strongly developed his characters. All had believable and motivating backstories, and I truly felt for each one.
However, at 2 hours and 15 minutes the movie dragged. The dour nature of the film eventually got to me, and with the characters’ few changes in emotion it was tough for me to continue caring for them. Also, Lee had no true revelation at the end. Other characters did, but Lee, at the end of the movie, was just as stoic as he was at the beginning. I desired more character change to all the heartache that I witnessed. I’m certain that this lack of revelation was intentional as Lonergan left out nothing else in this tragedy. However, the movie would have benefitted from such a conclusion or realization by Lee. Side note: I’m purposefully not discussing those moments because they were the most powerful moments of the film and I do not want to spoil them.
I recommend this movie to only serious cinephiles and older audiences. Otherwise, you might get bored in the details of Chandler’s life. It’s a long, slow trek through pain and suffering to arrive right where Chandler began at the beginning of this movie.
By Hagood Grantham
Target audience: mature audiences, cinephiles, & New Englanders.
For the trailer, please see below: