Every year, around this time, I go see one of the big time movies coming out at the height of Oscar season to potentially compete with the best and worst of that year. Sometimes they pay off… And sometimes they are a pain in the ass. I’m here to tell you today… This movie was fucking incredible! It is a beautiful film. It may not be the most visually appealing or memorable in the annals of history. But Manchester by the Sea is a brilliant character piece that focuses on the complex and realistic emotions of loss, love, and depression.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a down on his luck handy man living in a one room apartment in Boston. After experiencing the loss of his children in a fire that he mistakenly caused and the subsequent divorce of his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), Lee has slipped into a state of manic depression and unchecked violent outbursts. His brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), dies young as a result of congestive heart failure, forcing him to return home to face his demons and take care of Joe’s 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Patrick’s mother is an alcoholic and unable to take care of him and with Lee being the only living relative nearby means that he is put in Joe’s Will as Lee’s guardian. The story follows Lee as he deals with his crippling depression at the hands of his children dying, being a good care giver to Patrick, and finally confronting his ex-wife Randi.
Casey Affleck is Incredible
I’m just going to say it straight forward… Casey Affleck is fucking astonishing in his role as Lee Chandler. I don’t know if he is deserving of winning an Oscar, but he definitely deserves a nomination for his part as a manic depressed man dealing with the loss of his children in an accident that he committed.
Casey has a… quiet presence. He isn’t particularly bombastic, he is much more quiet with his anger. His face is always contorted into a look of tragic disgust. He just seems put out by a rough life and consigned himself to some form of failure. He does it so well and makes the character beautifully tragic.
An Accurate Portrayal of Teenagers
So this might be a minor pro, but I just can’t help myself… This is one of the few movies I have seen that has portrayed teenagers in an accurate and earnest way. By that, I mean that most of them are kind of assholes and that is okay. I mean, we were all assholes at some point as teenagers and I love the fact that this movie not only knows that, but plays into it. A lot of it is used as a means of by proxy parenting on the part of Lee towards Patrick. For instance, Patrick has two girlfriends, Silvie (Tate Donovan) and Sandy (Anna Baryshnikov) that do not know about the other. Of course, this is a major asshole thing to do. But the movie let’s it stew and uses it as a means of Lee finding a way around making sure Patrick eventually relinquishes one of them to be a much more honest person.
I love the little things, like the fact that the teenagers fight over whether or not Star Trek is any good in that classic snobbish and obnoxious teenage style of argument. I love the fact that Patrick is in a band with Sandy and the band… Is really fucking terrible. I mean they are horrendous! They have a shitty and pretentious name and continue to play in Sandy’s mom’s basement. If that isn’t the epitome of high school, then I don’t know what is. The portrayal of teenagers, in a day and age where teenagers are put on some sort of strange pedestal in any movie they are focused on is quite enjoyable.
The Camera Work is Astounding
Man, do I love some good cinematography and this movie has some astonishing cinematography. It isn’t necessarily breathtakingly beautiful like Avatar, it doesn’t do amazing things with different cameras like Quintin Tarantino, and it isn’t obnoxiously ARTSY like I am the Pretty Thing… But what it is, is a well shot movie. The film captures the small town feel of Manchester, the cold atmosphere, the feel of a large house upkept by a working class fisherman, everything about this film is so meticulously shot that makes you feel and understand every moment that is captured. Kenneth Lonergan deserve tremendous praise.
It Plays with Real Emotion and Does Not Villafy Anything
The message of this movie is how someone deals with loss and the feeling associated with that loss. The movie does not play up any one particular emotion nor does it play it off as some sort of extravagant melodrama. Most important of all… The emotions feel real and some emotions are not villafied over other emotions like other movies that deal with the subject material.
Lee Chandler and Patrick Chandler are men who are in tremendous amount of pain. Lee has lost his three children in a fire that he accidentally caused. Patrick lost his father at the age of 16 and his father at the age of 45. Patrick’s mother is an alcoholic and at that stage, Patrick and Lee only truly have each other as far as family is concerned. The only other surviving relatives living in Minnesota.
Lee has serious anger issues that he is not dealing with. He starts bar fights at the drop of a hat, drinks nightly, has dealt with serious depression, lashes out at anyone who gets near him, and is emotionally distant to just about anyone he meets… Especially women who might have a romantic interest in him.
Patrick has some serious issues as well. When he initially hears about his father’s death, he doesn’t break down in tears but remains somewhat stoic. He hangs out with his friends for comfort and generally continues to live his life while attempting to remain distant from his father’s corpse and subsequent funerary necessities. One of the most brilliant scenes in the movie is when Patrick is looking for food in the fridge and has a panic attack because the food wouldn’t fit into the freezer. This is brought on by the fact that Joe is unable to be buried until the spring due to the ground being frozen and his father’s body being left in a freezer. It is an emotionally impactful scene that is both painful and breathtaking in its realism.
At the end of the film, both men clearly are not magically healed by the love of some woman or through the power of fixing a boat. Lee still has his anger issues and Patrick is still having trouble bottling emotions. But that is reality and there is a satisfaction in knowing that both men will be fine in the grand scheme of things and will have each other for the next two years as Patrick turns 18 and becomes legally able to care for himself.
This movie is astonishing and easily one of, if not THE movie of 2016. Casey Affleck is amazing in his performance. The movie is well written and a breath-taking story about the emotion of loss and tragedy. From direction, sound, acting, and script this movie is a perfect storm of filmmaking brilliance.
Final Score 5/5
Thank you for reading! Come back in the next week to check out the Best and Worst Video Games of 2016 and the Best and Worst Movies of 2016.