Monday, April 3, 2017

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
DOP: Jody Lee Lipes
Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Language: English

A depressed and withdrawn man is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after his brother's death. This requires him to move back to Manchester by the sea from Boston and he really doesn't want to because of the things that happened in his life when he was living there.

I was under the impression that this was an extremely sad and depressive film but I found it to be more of a black comedy and ultimately a feel-good film. Not sure if it is because of the staple diet of all the tear-jerker films from Sibi Malayil that I had feasted on while growing up. The film begins with Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) being a janitor and caretaker of several apartments in Boston living a very withdrawn and isolated life. He gets a phonecall regarding his brother's hospitalisation and by the time he reaches the hospital he is dead. While he is taking care of all the arrangements in an unconventional manner, we're given flashbacks from his past to let us gradually know what is simmering under Lee's exterior. It is a very subtle performance from Casey for which he rightly won the academy award for best actor. I've always been a huge fan of his and felt he was quite underrated till this film came around. He already had a tremendous body of work prior to this with films like Assassination of Jesse James, Gone Baby Gone and The Killer Inside Me.


This is Kenneth Lonergan's third feature film and I have also seen his second one, Margaret, which was in post-production for six years. I seem to be the only one who interpreted Maragaret as a depiction of United States' interventionist foreign policy and their reactions when they get some blowback. Lonergan made his name as a playwright and it was supposed to be Matt Damon who was going to play Lee but he got held up with that Chinese action move about some fucking wall. He thankfully recommended his good friend Casey's name for it and rest is history.

Even though Michelle Williams is prominent in its posters, she is there only in it for like 5-6 scenes. One thing I really didn't get is the way some people were referring to 'The Lee Chandler' in the film and might suggest that many in town saw him as guilty regarding the event that happened in the past. Or maybe just because of his behaviour after. Performances are all great and the icy wintery setting is just perfect. It is a terrific watch but as a darkly funny feel-good film.

Rating: 5/5