Friday, November 25, 2016
Manchester by the Sea
In a typical gloomy cold winter day in Boston, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a reticent hard-working handyman living in an apartment building, receives a phone call and learns that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) just died. He rushes back to his brother's home in Manchester, where he grew up in a tight-knit small community.
Soon he learns that he is the sole guardian of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), who is yet to settle in with the reality. Lee isn't thrilled by the sudden grave responsibility, but he is not going to run away from it either because he loves his brother and Patrick. Little by little in flashback, we learn that he also deeply loved his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams), and why he tries to live in Boston and to stay away from his familiar hometown folks.
By designating Patrick's guardianship to Lee in the will, Joe cleverly pulls Lee back to this town by the sea, and hopefully to life as well, even if that means Lee has to come out of his grief-stricken solitude and confront the scars of his past.
The writer-director Kenneth Lonergan is a brilliant storyteller. He knows how to convincingly construct his characters little by little, and get you hopelessly attached to them. He makes them persuasive, real, and down to earth as if they are somebody around our daily lives. He meticulously arranges every detail such that everything makes perfect sense and falls into place for each character. In the end, you simply marvel at his artistic ingenuity and appreciate his story that touches your heart.
Kenneth Lonergan is also extremely efficient. His use of flashback in this film is both clever and effective. While you learn what's going on in the head of the character, you are also told about their past. He also makes a brave and mesmerizing move by playing the entire Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor" in the background during a film's pivotal scene. It's remarkably haunting and heartbreaking.
Gradually, these characters grow closer to you and their emotions are deeply felt. Long after the film is over, you'll find yourself continuing to think about them while tearing up. Indeed, some scenes in the film are gut-wrenching. But just like life in general is usually filled with both ups and downs, this film also contains plenty of humor and it isn't a sappy movie.
The film's accomplishment must also be greatly attributed to the powerful performance by its actors. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams definitely deserve to be nominated for the Academy Award. Lee is a career defining role for Casey Affleck, and Michelle Williams has never been better.
Kenneth Lonergan closely observes how life truly is, and eloquently depicts it with enormous compassion in this incredible film.