#REVIEW: “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
It has been ten long months since the premiere of Manchester by the Sea at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and the critical acclaim just keeps growing. It finally hits select theatres in Canada this weekend after a spectacular response at TIFF in September. But is the hype justified?
After the sudden death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is forced into becoming the guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). As Lee begins adjusting and coming to terms with his new life, he is haunted by his past that lead him to leave his hometown.
Everything you have heard about Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan’s tale is true and then some. This is spectacular filmmaking that does not come around often enough. In only his third feature Film, Lonergan has composed a deeply-moving and emotionally-devastating picture of loss, loneliness and regret, but never overindulges in any of those feelings. Instead, he focuses on the tender and lighter moments between Lee and Patrick, leading to a lot of awkward and natural humour that surprisingly balances out the despair. But for everything he says about dealing with loss, Longeran leaves a frustrating amount unsaid. I kept waiting for some kind of catharsis, for Lee especially, but ended up being left cold and emotionally stilted by the time the Film ended. Longeran also needs to work on his musical choices – they are overbearing and downright bizarre throughout the entire Film.
For how great the Film is, it would be nothing without Affleck. This is easily one of the best performances of the year, and really shines a light on what an incredibly talented actor he is. Affleck shines in every scene he appears in, no matter who he is acting with, and really digs down deep into how emotionally harrowing this character’s life has been. He just has an aura about himself, slipping easily between the devastation and hilarity of the script, never missing any beats. This is an authentic and brilliant performance that much like the Film, we do not see nearly often enough.
Relative unknown Hedges is a complete revelation, acting on a level that not only matches Affleck, but practically surpasses him. Everything about his performance is natural and real. He is genuinely convincing navigating his complicated teenage feelings of grieve and just wanting to get laid. A lot of the humour stems from the conversations and situations Hedges finds himself in with his new guardian, and each one is even better than the last. Even a strange turn in the Third Act is not enough to derail how terrific Hedges is.
Special mention also needs to be made for Michelle Williams, who commands the screen in her limited amount of screen time. She leaves an indelible mark that sizzles between each of her scenes. The scene depicted and hinted at in the trailers and posters between her and Affleck will easily become a study in acting perfection.
You may laugh just as often as you cry during Manchester by the Sea. It is not an easy film to watch or digest, but Lonergan’s picture deserves every accolade it has received and more. Affleck is incredible and the young Hedges is even better. This is a must-see Film this Oscar season – and it will stay with you long after leaving the theatre.
Mongrel Media release MANCHESTER BY THE SEA in select cities Friday, November 25, 2016.