Manchester by the Sea is simply one of the most deeply felt and tender dramas of last year or any year. It gives so much to the viewer. It’s an exploration of unspeakable loss, impossible grief, and the promise of possibility. There are also some comedic parts, some touching parts, and a very appealing soundtrack. This movie is the polar opposite of LaLa Land. It demands that the viewer be present to experience, through a brilliant screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan and a startlingly understated performance by Casey Affleck, emotions that we commonly avoid or don’t consider “entertainment”.
Let’s start with Lonergan. I first became familiar with him when You Can Count on Me came out in 2000. What a great story and great casting. Laura Linney’s character is a single mom who is visited by her black sheep brother, deftly played by Mark Ruffalo. That was my first introduction to Ruffalo, and if you check out his filmography, you’ll see why I hadn‘t heard of him before then. Anyway, You Can Count on Me was a perfect Indie, and then I lost track of Lonergan until Manchester. After viewing Manchester, I went back and watched Margaret, featuring Anna Paquin and Matt Damon, and another welcome performance by Mark Ruffalo. We have it here at the store, and it, too, is well worth the watch. Lonergan’s screenplay for Manchester is the perfect vehicle to delve deep into difficult themes, but the payoff is well worth the journey.
Just watching Casey Affleck inhabit his character, Lee, filled me with enormous appreciation of the art of film. He gave a stunning performance, and I hope that he is rewarded on Oscar night. Entertainment gossip has revealed certain objectionable behaviors in his personal and professional life. We’ve seen this come up with actors/directors like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Sean Penn, Casey’s brother, Ben, and many others. So academy voters may choose to snub Casey for the award, and it brings up the interesting question of how we separate or don’t, the personal life of the artist from their art.
But I digress, as per usual. Other rewarding performances come from the gifted actor Michelle Williams, who plays Lee’s wife, Randi, and the wonderful turn by Lucas Hedges as Patrick, Lee’s nephew. Patrick’s mom and her husband are played by Gretchen Mol and Matthew Broderick (Broderick also showed up as Laura Linney’s smarmy boss in You Can Count on Me).
Okay, I’ve told you enough, and notice I haven’t even given you the storyline. Take home this movie and you can enjoy the discovery. Have to comment, though, on the photography. Beautiful ocean shots, dreary New England winters, and portraiture of each actor that captures their experience of the story and expresses their gift. Manchester by the Sea was my favorite of 2016. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 2/21/17