Following the death of his brother, a man returns to his home town and discovers he has been made the legal guardian of his nephew.
Angry, antisocial Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts. One grey winter day, he gets a phone call to say that his brother is in hospital, and that he should make his way back to the hometown he left behind him years ago as soon as he can as he’s in a bad way. When Lee reaches the hospital, he is greeted with the sad news that he is too late, and that his brother has passed away. As his next of kin, it becomes Lee’s job to sort out his brother’s affairs and tell his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) about his dad. The two try to adjust to life without the missing member of their family, attempting to deal with their own issues whilst looking after each other. Lee discovers that his brother has outlined that he is to become Patrick’s guardian, and struggles to decide what to do about the situation.
One of my most anticipated films of this year was Manchester By The Sea, and I feel like I had some good foresight by choosing it as one of the films I was most looking forward to. I had high hopes for the performances that were to make up the foundations of the film, and I was not let down. Enjoyable probably isn’t the right word to describe the film, but enjoy watching it is what I did. It isn’t an uplifting watch, but it has some very funny moments dotted throughout, making the whole thing very true to real life.
Casey Affleck is the person I am currently hoping wins the Best Actor award for this year. He gave a brilliant performance as Lee. it was very understated, and most of the emotion he conveyed was done so through his subtle facial expressions. For the most part, he had his hands in his pockets and did a lot of shoulder shrugging, but it was so fitting for his character to do this. Lee had a past that he has constantly tried to escape form, and we find out what it is that haunts him about halfway through the film. Affleck played the part wonderfully, and reminded me of exactly why I think he is one of the most underrated actors working today.
His co-star Lucas Hedges, who is up for Best Supporting Actor alongside him, was equally as good. In his solo scenes, he did a grand job of showing the usual struggles of a teenage kid whilst also trying to deal with the fact that he had just lost his father too. However, he really shone in each scene he had with Affleck. They both nailed the uncle-nephew dynamic they had going on, and this was what led to some of the funniest moments in the film, which were needed otherwise you’d have been seriously depressed by the end of the film.
the only criticism I’d have if you made me pick one was that the film did feel like it had a few pacing issues at times, but given the sheer quality of the performances, I can let this slide. the other question I have to raise is why was Michelle Williams nominated for an Oscar for her performance? She was very good, don’t get me wrong, but she simply was not on-screen long enough to have that sort of an impact on the film in my opinion.
Overall, Manchester By The Sea is one of my favourites of the nominees I have seen so far this year. It does the simple things unbelievably well, and whilst at times it may feel a bit slow, the top drawer performances from the duo at the centre of this story make it worth staying right until the very end. For me, it was a very touching film that stays very true to how situations like this often play out in real life and it was a joy to watch the other day. I would highly recommend it.