Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Rating 1 -10:       9

Yesterday I saw this movie knowing that there was Oscar Buzz and many other award nominations already in.  Expectations were high.  In addition, I am a Massachusetts man so that would cause me to further scrutinize this movie for any small flaws.  I sat down knowing that this movie is two and a half hours.  Please movie people I hope you made this entertaining is what I was thinking.

A great drama about human emotion and reality.  It won’t make 500 million at the box office.  But this movie was riveting without any special effects, exotic locations, or oozing sex appeal.  This is one of the good ones.  A movie that has you laughing in the same scene you are tearing up.  Great dialogue and characters.  A drama that keeps building to the end.  You will relate to at least some piece of this movie.

Casey Affleck was excellent playing Lee Chandler.  A tortured soul who can’t overcome his broken heart and depression.   For a good hour of the movie you don’t know why but you easily feel his lost sense of life and motivation.  That any real human interaction was now foreign to him and a huge risk.  Someone who now had purposely walled himself off from interaction and society.  Something happened but what?  Then you find out, and then you have a new context for understanding everything.   He feels responsible for past tragedies and doesn’t deserve light in his life.  Then he is thrown into a situation where he is the one that needs to come through for his brother.  It is not about him anymore.  He must insert himself back into these human interactions.

The dynamic between Lucas Hedges as Patrick, and Affleck made the movie for me.  Two relatives who only knew each other mostly on the surface.  As most relatives do.  Now they are put together through circumstances and now they are the only family they have left.  Both carrying big issues on their backs.  But they need each other to get along now.  How would this change them and force them to evolve.  At several points in the movie there is laugh out loud dialogue resulting from these two being put together.  Patrick was a great character.  Confident because he fits in well with his friends and he knows what he wants is his home town and teenage world.  At the same time, he is dealing with wounds from his mother leaving and the fact that Joe is gone.  He is essentially all alone now in Manchester.  The way he challenges Lee at times in the movie is great fun.

Towards the end of the movie there are a couple of scenes where Michelle Williams and Affleck interact and the drama is excellent.  Randi knows that Lee has just stopped living and wants to anything she can to help bring him back.  She has moved on with a new fiancée and a new baby.  The scene where Lee finds this out is very strong.  Even though few words are spoken Affleck makes you feel his pain.  Nothing but bad news ever seems to come along for Lee.  The climax of the movie is their last scene together.

In addition, the music in the movie adds feeling.  Constantly there would be scenes of the sea with different weather and music to highlight the mood of the scene.  Sunny warm days then the same bay later windy with snow and high seas.   The shots of the towns and the surroundings really did justice to the north shore of Massachusetts.  The drives from Quincy to Manchester highlight the changes in community style nicely.  The New England feel was there.

The ending is terrific.  Like real life things don’t tie up nicely in a bow and everyone walks away satisfied with all problems solve.  But the simple peace you witness among the two translates well.  You know that these two are going to watch out for each other as best they can, and that they will be good for each other.







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