December 21, 2016

Manchester by the Sea Review

Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges

Kenneth Lonergan’s first feature since 2011’s Margaret (and only his third since his excellent 2000 debut, You Can Count on Me) is an incredibly sad film that never actually made me sad. A lonely, angry Boston handyman, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), finds out his beloved brother John (Kyle Chandler) has died and left him guardianship of his 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). But returning to Lee’s old hometown brings with it devastating memories of personal loss, as well as run-ins with his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams). 

Lonergan’s generous characterizations provide his cast with opportunities for greatness. Three-time Oscar nominee Williams is a foregone conclusion at this point, but when can we stop acting like Casey Affleck is a revelation? We have been aware of his talent since 2007 and Gone Baby Gone. His taciturn yet multifaceted portrayal of Lee should certainly earn him that first Best Actor nomination. Don’t be scared off by Manchester by the Sea’s deep well of sadness; the film is filled with wit, heart and life despite its funereal beginnings.