Review - Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea (2016), R, 137 minutes - When the Academy Awards nominations were announced last week, I found myself in an odd position: I had not yet seen a single nominee from a major category.  I suppose that I shouldn't have been surprised considering the lack of time I have had for movies over the last few months.  This year's nomination announcement jolted me out of the post-holiday lull I had fallen into and the first film I had the opportunity to check out was Manchester by the Sea.

Going in, I didn't know much about this film.  I knew that had been nominated for a number of Academy Awards, that it starred Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, and that it was based in Massachusetts, that's about it.  What I discovered was a very emotional look at a man who returns home after his brother's death to oversee arrangements, only to find himself caught in an emotional tug of war between his own personal demons and what is best for his nephew's future.

The film shifts between present day and flashbacks, filling in character histories as it progresses.  When the film begins, one would believe that Lee (Affleck) has some level or social anxiety.  We learn later that his awkward interactions are the result of something much, much deeper and traumatic.

Casey Affleck (Lee) turns in an excellent performance and is definitely worthy of the Best Actor nomination that he received.  Michelle Williams (Lee's wife/ex Randi) has much less screen time than I had anticipated, but has a huge impact on the film.  Lucas Hedges (Patrick, Lee's nephew) and Affleck play off of each other wonderfully as they portray the awkward new reality they have been thrust into following Joe's (Patrick's dad) passing.  Similarly to Williams', Chandler's roll (Joe) is small but essential to the film.  It may not be as emotionally charged as hers, but its equally important in illustrating why Lee goes to the lengths he does to look out for Patrick's well being.

The Academy deemed Manchester by the Sea worthy of six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Williams), Best Achievement in Directing (Kenneth Lonergan), and Best Original Screenplay (Lonergan).  I have yet to see any other nominated films, but I can see why this received as many nominations as it did.  Manchester by the Sea is a very strong film that it is emotionally charged and can be quite slow at times.  Don't get me wrong, I am in no way trying to warn you off of the film.  It has its fair share of sarcastic/dark humor, just know that if you are looking for a fun, light hearted film, this is not it.


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