Manchester by the Sea is a moving and melancholy family drama, portraying with great depth and complexity the difficulties that families and individuals face after a tragedy befalls them.
Having received many award nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, Manchester by the Sea is first and foremost a slow, melancholy drama filled with dysfunctional family relations and tragedy. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a handyman living in Boston who returns home to Manchester following the death of his brother. There he learns he is to become the legal guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (played by Lucas Hedges) who he struggles to build a good relationship with whilst also dealing with memories of his disturbing past.
As with most drama films the pacing remains consistently slow throughout, even well into the film’s conclusion. However Manchester by the Sea is moving and powerful, mostly due to its unyielding sombre tone. It is as though we are seeing the world through Lee’s eyes – the landscapes are bleak and cold, as though there is little joy to be found anywhere. His character is the driving force of the film and Affleck most definitely takes centre stage. He carries around with him an air of melancholy, sometimes aloof and distant, at other times he is bubbling with rage, impatient and prone to bouts of violence. Lee is clearly a broken man, and he portrays him with an outstanding amount of depth and complexity. The Oscar for Best Actor was clearly well deserved. Likewise Lucas Hedges, who plays Lee’s nephew Patrick, is very convincing in his role as a teenager trying to come to terms with the death of a parent. He swings dynamically between emotions, from moody to argumentative to completely grief stricken and emotionally vulnerable.
The narrative is a moving and emotional, if sad, one. From the very start there is a huge focus upon the main characters facing great hardship. Lee struggles to deal with the customers at his job and lives in a tiny, cramped one room apartment that is barely furnished. He struggles with the death of his brother and finds it difficult to connect with his nephew, and even sometimes to interact with other people beyond a few mumbled words. But most of all it is clear that he struggles with his own past. The film makes good use of flashbacks to show the complex relationships that Lee had with his family, and these slowly become more tense. It almost feels as though the climax of the film occurs in the middle of the story, when it is finally revealed what happened to Lee to make him like he is.
Manchester by the Sea is a moving and melancholy family drama, portraying with great depth and complexity the difficulties that families and individuals face after a tragedy befalls them. It may be sombre and bleak in tone, but ends on a slightly more positive note than the one on which it begins. All in all a powerful and unforgettable film.
Written by Lauren Miles
Top 10 Films reviewed Manchester By The Sea on DVD courtesy of Studio Canal which released the film on on digital download May 8th, and on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on May 15 2017 in the UK.