Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck is probably one of the most underrated actors of his generation. He is frequently overshadowed by his more commercially successful brother Ben, but when comparing the two as actors I have to side with Casey for being the more talented of the two. He always comes about with a very restrained performance, trying to hold back as much from the audience as he can, bottling up so many emotions into his characters that they seem fit to explode at any moment. His acting style is paired perfectly with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan in Manchester By the Sea, which is sure to catapult them both some long-awaited Hollywood respect.
Manchester By the Sea has a depressing plot when outlined but in reality it’s a very lighthearted film. We open up on a janitor named Lee (Casey Affleck) in Boston; he’s an extremely introverted character for reasons explained later on in the movie. Lee soon receives news that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart attack. Lee goes up to his old hometown of Manchester to see to his brother’s body, but there he finds out that he’s been made guardian of Joe’s sixteen-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges); he is forced to temporarily relocate while dodging ghosts from the past like that of his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams).
As I mentioned above, the plot seems extremely depressing, but the film is made in such a way that it’s really just a simple string of recollections of a particular moment in these character’s lives. We see clumsy and awkward moments that bring a certain realism to the story as well as unexpected humor. This film definitely reminded me of Boyhood; the way that the scenes were edited together showcasing the little details that stick to one’s memory years later. Although, like Boyhood, the film also suffers a bit from being a bit slow with the realism of its moments and drags on a bit more than you would like it too, as if it wasn’t quite sure how to end.
Affleck, having found his perfect role, is exceptional in the film sure to be vying for gold in the awards season. He somehow manages to convey so much simply with his eyes, from the beginning you can tell that there is a sad history he’s suffered, and yet all of his bodily actions and even facial expressions are indifferent, throughout. Michelle Williams, meanwhile, gets three or four scenes at most but they are enough to dazzle us with such a gripping performance, to the point that she almost overshadows Affleck. And Lucas Hedges was a great revelation, perfectly embodying the denial that Patrick goes through, and nailing his humorous and sarcastic moments.
The film is a joy to watch despite the long running time and some slow scenes. The incredible performances and the light-heartedness and analysis at life that the film gives you make it definitely worth your time.