Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Manchester By The Sea" Is The Most Realistic Family Drama In Years

    Grief is something that follows us around in numerous ways. Whether we are grieving the loss of a loved one, grieving over a breakup, or grieving over the fact that we have to get up every morning to do the same tired routine. It is also the main theme for Manchester By The Sea which also successfully deals with the humor, joy, and the heartbreak that come with life itself.

    Manchester By The Sea follows the story of a misanthropic janitor named Lee, played by Casey Affleck, who finds his life in turmoil when his distant brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler, passes away. Lee is left to be the guardian to his young nephew Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges, while he also tries to confront demons of his past.

    One main reason this film works so well is Casey Affleck who successfully carries it on his shoulders. Rather than portray his grief-stricken character with caricatural histrionics, Affleck plays Lee as a neurotic everyman. Someone who just wants to fight his way from one day to the next and not worry about emoting his inner turmoil while avoiding any connection to those around him.

    As terrific as Affleck is though, Lucas Hedges is a scene stealer as Patrick. For such a young actor at about 19 years old, he matches his veteran co-star tit for tat while possessing a potent mix of light youthful charm with dramatic vulnerability. Thanks to the chemistry that he and Affleck have, even as their characters are at odds with one another, I still wanted them to find some kind of happiness in the end. I look forward to what the future holds for this amazing young talent.

    There's also a lot of awards hype around Michelle Williams for her brief work as Lee's ex-wife Randi. While she has a small amount of screentime, whenever she is on screen, she does have an impact so i'd say her buzz is pretty warranted. Especially during her penultimate scene where she expresses shock, sadness, and regret in just a span of minutes.

    Not only do the actors make their characters true to life, but writer/director Kenneth Lonergan writes the film close to life as well. His writing flourishes in its simplicity, showcasing a portrait of dealing with grief along with a portrayal of normal family life. Lee and Patrick fight, make up, and then have a few laughs the way a regular family does. Lonergan even manages to weave in constant flashbacks that deal with Lee's backstory. Some of them weren't always necessary yet they still reveal why Lee is the way he is.

   Overall, Manchester By The Sea is a masterful and subtlely complex portrayal of dealing with grief and the power of family love brought to life by its naturalistic performances by Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams along with the screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan. It shows the tears, laughs, joys, and heartbreak of life itself and does it seamlessly.

Grade: A