You would have had to have been living under a pretty large rock if you haven’t heard about Manchester by the Sea yet. Even if you had no interest in it, it’s been impossible to avoid the overflowing hype train headed straight to the Oscars. The general consensus seemed to be that Casey Affleck delivered one of those master performances of a lifetime and I’m all for a good performance, so I had to see what all the fuss was about.
The overarching story is pretty simple and straightforward, a recurring theme in this year’s nominees, and serves as the general framework for the events that unfold instead of the driving force. The basic rundown is that the main character’s brother abruptly dies and he’s forced to go back to his hometown and take care of his nephew.
Don’t watch this expecting some grand story with lessons learned and easy solutions, instead watch this for a simple tale about life, tragedy, and the struggle to pick up the pieces left behind.
I’ll admit that I actually didn’t like the story that much. It’s very slow going and had me fighting back sleep for the first 1/3 of the movie. But once it hit about the halfway mark, man did it hit hard. From that point on it was one emotional haymaker after another. It was genuinely uncomfortable, heart wrenching, and genuinely tough to watch at times. With one moment in particular between him and his ex that had me choking up. This was by far it’s biggest success; the storytelling was an afterthought for me, but the smallest moments of silence or simple dialogue hit the hardest, thanks to it’s unwavering commitment to it’s somber tone, even when moments might drag on a bit too long. Don’t watch this expecting some grand story with lessons learned and easy solutions, instead watch this for a simple tale about life, tragedy, and the struggle to pick up the pieces left behind.
The cinematography in Manchester by the Sea was top notch. They captured the very essence of small town East coast America with some beautiful shots of the sea and an overall subdued color palette that reinforced the somber tone of the movie. They mostly used natural ambient sound throughout the duration but when they did use music it made it that much more impactful.
If Casey doesn’t win the Oscar for his performance that would be a travesty. He carries this film throughout it’s entirety and he conveys so much emotion and damage with the simplest of glances or the smallest moments of silence.
The acting is the number one reason to check this one out. Everybody does a fantastic job, from Casey Affleck (Lee) to Lucas Hedges (Patrick) to Michelle Williams (Randi). If Casey doesn’t win the Oscar for his performance that would be a travesty. He carries this film throughout it’s entirety and he conveys so much emotion and damage with the simplest of glances or the smallest moments of silence. He’s a completely broken man and it shows in everything he does. Lucas Hedges had a breakthrough performance and played the perfect foil to Affleck. Michelle Williams doesn’t have the biggest role in the movie but there’s one scene with Affleck that steals the show and is one of the most emotionally charged exchanges I’ve seen in any movie. They all gave performances of a lifetime, it was breathtaking stuff.
Have you seen Manchester by the Sea? What’d you think about it? What’d you think about Casey Affleck’s performance? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the movie.
* SPOILERS *
For most of the movie they hinted at some big tragic event that broke Lee but always pulled back before revealing it. But when they finally did reveal it…FUCKKKKKK. Talk about heart wrenching; inadvertently killing his three children in a house fire and then not being able to live with that fact and trying to kill himself in the police station was hard to watch.
And then that scene with his ex-wife, Randi, where she pours her heart out and tells him that she still loves him and that he can’t just die, had me choking up.
And then the scene earlier than that where she tells him that she’s pregnant again, and you could just see his heart dropping was another one.
The whole movie was summed up in one line, ” I can’t beat this.”
Manchester by the Sea is a simple tale about life, tragedy, and trying to pick up the pieces left behind. The story is almost inconsequential and it's in the smallest moments where it really shines. It's a tough watch but worth it at least once for the performance of a lifetime given by Casey Affleck and the rest of the cast.