Movie Review: Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Posted: March 11, 2017 in Drama
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manchester by the sea

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a handyman in Boston.  Lee hears that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) has had a heart attack. He drives to Manchester by the Sea Massachusetts, to see Joe, but by the time Lee gets there, Joe is dead.  Lee thinks he will pay his respects to Joe, attend the funeral and go back to Boston, but he’s surprised to learn that Joe has made Lee the guardian to his son Patrick. (Ben O’Brien, Lucas Hedges)  Joe also has a commercial fishing boat, which needs a new motor.  Lee thinks he can sell the boat, and take Patrick back to Boston, but Patrick has other ideas, he plays hockey in school, plays guitar in a band and has multiple girlfriends, so he has no intention of moving.  In fact, Patrick thinks he might move in with his alcoholic, drug addicted mother, Elise (Gretchen Mol) who is now clean and sober, but Lee doesn’t think that’s such a good idea.  What does Lee do, does he take Patrick with him to Boston or stay in Manchester by The Sea?

Manchester By the Sea is a character study of a sullen, taciturn handyman, who is living by himself when the audience first sees him and wants to keep it that way.  With the use of flashbacks the audience learns why Lee is so angry, and distraught.  The flashbacks focus on Lee’s shortcomings and his inability to cope with his shortcomings and also his inability to mourn properly for his dead brother.  There is some humor thankfully, but not enough.  The flashbacks were ineffective, because they were longer than the usual flashback and actually interfered with the story moving forward.  The story does not have enough material, and soon becomes redundant.  There are unnecessary flourishes like Patrick’s two girlfriends, and every random woman that Lee meets being attracted to him, these plot points didn’t really add anything to the movie, and should have been left out.  At two hours and 15 minutes a lot should have been left on the editing room floor.  At least there is no Hollywood ending and the story just ends.

The acting was ok.  I really didn’t think that Casey Affleck deserved an Oscar for this performance, he didn’t seem that tortured and his whiny voice, and character’s indecisiveness add to the annoyance factor. If you like a performance featuring a passive aggressive character who mumbles a lot, this is the performance for you. His performance did not affect me emotionally, as it should have, and that must have something to do with his acting.  He has given better performances in Gone Baby Gone, for example, but this was just an ordinary performance.  Michelle Williams, on the other hand gave an incredible multifaceted performance, she was tough as nails in the first half of the movie, and by the second half she was completely a broken woman.  The emotional range Williams gives this character is incredible.  She definitely deserved her Oscar nomination. Lucas Hedges is good at playing a bratty teenage kid, but did he deserve an Oscar nomination?  I don’t think so.

The direction is so-so as well, the movie begins with long, languorous, views of the water, to remind the viewer that yes it is Manchester by The Sea, the director Kenneth Lonergan then tries to get arthouse on the audience, and focus on seagulls after an especially dramatic scene.  The thing that struck me most about this movie was the very slow pacing.  Lonergan, who also wrote the movie, seems unwilling to cut anything from this film, and so the pacing suffers.  He only gets one really good performance out of three, so he doesn’t seem  like an actor’s director.

Manchester By The Sea: Don’t See it.



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