Image Credit: Amazon Studios
Kenneth Lonergan is a director that I don’t have much familiarity with. A quick IMDB search will tell you that his directing career spans many decades, and he only directs about one film every 10 years (kind of like James Cameron!) His latest film, “Manchester By The Sea,” is richly layered, beautifully subtle, and very heart wrenching.
An emotional grasp into the horrors of grief, loss, and despair “Manchester” follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a quiet-local handyman that hardly has a purpose in life. Other than shacking up in bars and picking fights with folks who look at him the wrong way. When his older brother (Kyler Chandler) drops dead from a heart attack, it leaves Lee at a crossroads as he becomes the legal guardian for his brother’s 16 year old son (Lucas Hedges). This puts Lee in a predicament, as he wants nothing to do with the proposition of being put in that situation. And through a series of a flashbacks told periodically throughout the film, we understand why. He has a past that he can’t shake, and remorse that is unprecedented.
Granted, that has all the setup for you to grab a few Kleenex, and you should. But Lonergan allows enough moments to fill the screen with grace, humor, and redemption. Affleck turns in the best performance of his career, with stellar supporting work by Hedges as well. The two have great chemistry on screen, and it allows the films brighter half to shine through. The ending does leave very little room for our characters to grow, nor do we get all the insight we need. Perhaps it’s easier to look at “Manchester By The Sea” for that reason alone, as an exhibit of life where everything doesn’t turn out how would you hope. A-