Manchester by the Sea is a heartbreaking film about loss and grief. It is brilliantly acted and there are glimspes of comedy that provide relief amongst the heartache. Despite the moments of humour, this is not a film where happy endings abound. The characters are all living in pain and dealing with it in their own different ways.
Following his brother’s death, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is forced back to his hometown of Manchester to sort out his brother’s funeral and check that his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) is being looked after. On finding out his brother has made him Patrick’s legal guardian, Lee finds himself forced to stay around longer than planned and for reasons that soon become apparent, he struggles to cope with the constant reminders of his past.
An unimaginable tragedy is slowly revealed through flashbacks which reveals why Lee is so set against sticking around. This slow unfolding of events only strengthens the impact when the tragedy is eventually revealed and makes the viewer appreciate the weight of grief and guilt Lee is carrying. Lee left his hometown to get away from these insurmountable feelings, but they still eat away at him, affecting all his actions and relationships.
The themes of grief and family dominate this film and we see various coping mechanisms used as the characters all deal with grief differently. Patrick goes straight into recovery mode whereas Lee has inverted into himself and done his best to cut ties with his old life. Grief and self hatred consume Lee and his every action and he can barely even manage to make small talk, let alone deal with his demons. Casey Affleck is brilliant in this role and although Lee does not often let his grief out, you can clearly see it bubbling beneath the surface every time he’s on screen.
There are some incredibly moving scenes between Lee and his ex wife Randi (Michelle Williams) but it is Lee’s relationship with Patrick that dominates the film. Lee wants to do his best by his Nephew but he knows that he cannot overcome his grief and he may not be the best person to look after Patrick. Despite the emotional trauma the characters are dealing with, there are some incredibly funny moments. The one that springs to mind involves Patrick trying to get lucky with his girlfriend whilst her mum is nearby, and constantly getting interrupted before anything can happen.
This is a heart-breaking tale of grief and family with superb performances. Not to be missed.
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Dir: Kenneth Lonergan