Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea needs no introduction. Lauded by critics and audiences alike, this exceptional drama strikes subtle, quiet blows that bruise and stay with you.
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea needs no introduction. A Sundance Film Festival hit and adored by critics in 2016, the film from the writer of Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York was nominated for six Academy Awards with Casey Affleck winning Best Actor alongside the prize for Best Original Screenplay. The simplistic nature of the film’s premise – a grieving loner looks after teenage nephew after brother dies – belies the compelling emotional layers Lonergan captures and the complex subtleties that his character’s draw their energy from.
Lee Chandler (Affleck), a socially reclusive handyman living in a Boston apartment block, finds he is the legal guardian of his nephew following his brother’s sudden death. He’s forced to return to his hometown not far from his current abode but not far enough away to allow him to leave the tragedies of his past behind. The change of circumstance reopens old wounds which underline the compelling drama that ensues.
Lonergan’s experience as a decorated playwright shines in Manchester By The Sea, it’s unhurried pace rewarding patience, its subtleties coming through character development, and its power enhanced by performance. Affleck is particularly outstanding, the actor displaying a sort of open wound that grips by virtue of its fragility.
Don’t be afraid to get lost in Lonergan’s flashback structure as it brings the crippling rage and frustrations of Chandler to provocative life. The sometimes confusing time shifts actually pleasingly infuriate like a narrative tick that brings this loner’s gripes into finer focus.
What’s great about Manchester By The Sea is often what is not said. There are moments where conversation plays second fiddle to instances of eye contact and silence underpinned by inaction. This is when Lonergan really catches you off guard. There’s an ordinariness to proceedings that ill prepares you for the genuine emotional gut-punches that the film possesses. When the blow lands, it’s difficult not to hit the canvas wondering what just happened. You’ll get up quickly, eager to re-enter the narrative you’re now completely invested in, but the bruising has set in and it’s not the only blow on the way.
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