Film Review: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Manchester By The Sea Still

Casey Affleck gives a devastating performance in 'Manchester by the Sea.'

Casey Affleck gives a devastating performance in 'Manchester by the Sea.'

In a role that will win him the Academy Award for Best Actor, Affleck is Lee Chandler, a man stricken with grief, so much grief that gets worse when he gets word that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler in flashbacks) has suddenly passed away in their hometown of Manchester, New Hampshire. Joe leaves behind teenage son Patrick (newcomer Lucas Hedges), and it’s Lee who is now Patrick's guardian.

But Lee just doesn’t have the energy, or the passion, to take in his nephew. Now a handyman, he moved to Boston after a tragic event that took the lives of his three children, a tragic event that could’ve been prevented, and a tragedy that caused the breakdown of his marriage to Randi (Michelle Williams). So he’s really quite unsure and struggles with what to do with Patrick. Lee can’t send Patrick to his mother, who he is not close to, and anyway she is pretty much out of the picture. And Patrick doesn’t want to move to Boston to live with Lee. But Lee struggles everyday, struggling with guilt over the death of his children, guilt that is evident in his face and his posture, and grief that will more than likely never go away. But it is up to Lee to make sure his nephew is taken care of.

There is so much darkness in 'Manchester by the Sea' that it’s hard to leave the film without feeling depressed and sodden. Yet it’s Affleck’s acting that propels this film to must-see and award-worthy status. Affleck, who is Ben Affleck’s younger brother and who just won the Golden Globe Award, gives the best performance of his career. His Lee is quite unlike any character you’ve seen all year - and Affleck plays him amazingly. Williams is also very good as Lee's wife who eventually moves on and starts a new life, and BAFTA Rising Star nominee Hedges is a real find and perfect as the rebellious teenager. In a film produced by Matt Damon, who was originally going to star as Lee, and with excellent writing and directing by Kenneth Lonergan (2000’s You Can Count on me) who with this film cements himself to A-list status of Hollywood filmmakers, 'Manchester by the Sea' is one of this year’s few must-see films.