Casey Affleck is an estranged former father and uncle living a low-key solitary life. However when his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies, he must return to his home town in order to become the guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges).
Manchester by the Sea isn’t the film I was expecting, and I think other may garner the wrong impression of the film as well. Whether it be from the trailer, or the poster or just the fact that it’s gathering a lot of Oscar speculation I think many people – like me – will go into Manchester by the Sea expecting a really tough emotional ride. It’s for some reason marketed itself as a proper slice of weepy Oscar bait, but it just isn’t that movie. Thankfully it’s far better.
Manchester by the Sea while deeply emotional, like its central character, decides not to dwell very much on this emotion. Potentially distressing scenes aren’t drawn out or milked, and in many cases are simply shrugged off. And the overall tone of the movie is generally quite comical really. It’s actually a very funny and enjoyable movie. It takes on serious emotional material in much the same way its characters do, it just gets on with it. As such the film depicts a very real sense of families dealing with trauma and grief.
In terms of performances Manchester by the Sea stars the probably Oscar winning Casey Affleck in its lead role, and he really is very impressive. It’s a beautifully understated performance that manages to speak huge volumes with the smallest movements. Elsewhere the ensemble are all exceptional. Michelle Williams (who incidentally isn’t in the film as much as you think she is) is very good, but the main supporting role is that of the nephew – Lucas Hedges. Hedges has been in the game for a couple years now, with small roles in Moonrise Kingdom and Kill the Messenger among others, but this will be his real breakthrough. Never before have I so accurately seen teenage awkwardness portrayed on screen.
The film for me had some minor flaws. Occasionally I found the music choice a little odd and slightly off-putting and there were some strange editing choices in the movie. On particular scene in which we cut from a car that has just set off to somewhere entirely different is especially jarring for no noticeable reason. However these are nit-picks in what is a really great movie, deserved of its awards traction.