Manchester by the Sea, rated R
This film is written and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Lonergan, and has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards. It stars Oscar nominee Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler. He is an angry and withdrawn loner living in a tiny basement apartment in Boston, where he works as a janitor and handyman. He is depressed, drinks too much and tends to get into fights with strangers in bars.
The film uses constant flashbacks to tell the story. We find out that he once led a content life with wife Randi (three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams) and three children. His entire family – father, brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and nephew lived in Manchester, Massachusetts on Cape Ann. Lee enjoyed spending time with his brother Joe and his son. But then something terrible happened, and it changed Lee and Randi forever. Joe supports Lee when it seems that nobody else does. But then Joe, who suffers from congestive heart failure, dies as a result of a heart attack, and Lee’s life is shattered again.
Joe had a 16-year old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges from Moonrise Kingdom). Patrick’s mother Elise (Gretchen Mol) is a drug addict, and hasn’t been a part of the family for some time. As a result, Joe’s wishes in his will are that his troubled brother would move back to Manchester to look after his son if anything should happen to him. This revelation adds shock to Lee’s grief over his brother’s death. Manchester is a hard place for him to return to.
Lee is ill-equipped to parent the popular and socially active Patrick, who plays in a rock band, is a member of a hockey team and has two girlfriends Sandy (Anna Baryshnikov, daughter of Mikhail) and Silvie (Kara Hayward who starred with Hedges in Moonrise Kingdom), neither of which know Patrick is seeing the other. C.J. Wilson portrays Lee’s good friend George.
We see Lee and Patrick both dealing with the loss of a loved brother and father. In many ways their relationship is more of an older and younger brother rather than an uncle and son. They argue often, and we see Lee make poor choices in being permissive with Patrick and his girlfriends. We see that Elise, Patrick’s mother has changed, as she is now engaged to Jeffrey (Matthew Broderick), a Christian. The scene with Mathew Broderick was one of the most awkward that you will see in a film. Brilliantly acted!
We enter into the grief of Lee and Patrick as they try to move forward; Lee is forced to confront his demons. It is also a film about family, the ties that bind us to our hometown, and about forgiveness. The film also includes some humor, but overall it was emotionally exhausting.
The film is rated R for excessive adult language, including numerous abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, sexuality, violence and adult themes. It included frequent use of the F-Bomb as a noun, verb, adjective, etc. It features strong acting performances and makes good use of beautiful music and lovely scenery. Casey Affleck may win the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lee. Michelle Williams turns in a strong performance in a small role as Randi, and is worthy of a fourth Oscar nomination. In addition, Lucas Hedges is very good as Patrick.
My 3-star rating for the film is based on the strong acting performances. It won’t be a film for everyone. It is emotionally draining, has excessive adult language and some sexuality.