Manchester By The Sea (2016)

I finally managed to watch Manchester By The Sea last week after a month of wanting to see it. This movie left quite an emotional impact on me, something that I have already foreseen and the reason why it took me this long to watch it. There’s also something really special about this movie that I couldn’t really put my finger on what exactly that is.

I’m not familiar with the work of Kenneth Lonergan (writer, director) and I was quite intrigued by all the rave reviews he got for both Manchester By The Sea and his previous movie, Margaret (2011), which also very well-received by critics (not that I really read movie critiques these days but sometimes it can be taken as an indication that certain movies are worth checking out). Going into this movie, I didn’t watch the trailer and apart from the sypnosis, I knew nothing about this movie. That’s how I like it these days, going into the cinema clueless, if I can. But here’s a trailer if you’re interested ;p

Manchester By The Sea tells a story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a Boston janitor/handyman who lives alone in a basement of the apartment block he works in. He’s an irritable loner who seems to be emotionally detached, save for the time when he goes to a bar and picks up fights with strangers. Simply put, he’s a tough guy to like. Upon the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), he unexpectedly has to take the responsibility of being the guardian to his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), in Manchester, Massachusetts.

Going into the first twenty minutes of this movie, I had no idea where it was heading. But by the time the movie ends, I felt like I could’ve watch an hour more of this movie. Manchester By The Sea is truthful, honest and respectful of the story it want to tell. The movie succesfully delivers a handful of emotional jabs that made this movie truly memorable for me. For example, the hospital scene at the beginning of the movie was tough to watch but the one that really broke me inside was the short, tearful talk Lee and his ex-wife Randi, had towards the end of the movie. When Lee said, “There’s nothing there,” I can only echo what the critics said about Manchester By The Sea; it is raw and heartbreaking.

Kenneth Lonergan as the writer and director, treated the story with respect and didn’t undermine the audience’s ability to follow through with the story the way he presented it. He utilised the function of flashback brilliantly in this movie by using it as an expositions. The transition between flashback and present day in the movie is done so seamlessly, it took me a while to realized that sometimes I was watching an event that happened in the past. I especially love that the dark humour in this movie totally works and tastefully done. The conversations, for example the ones between Lee and Patrick, felt so real and intimate that it doesn’t really feel like I was watching a scripted movie scene.

Manchester By The Sea deals with grief and life in the realest way possible. Loose ends unattended, words left unspoken and lesson unlearned are apparent throughout this movie. There’s no promise of closure, healing and silver linings. Just like his past that is never truly behind him, Lee is a broken man who may never really recovers.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here, Manchester By The Sea is a sombre-looking movie that is emotionally tough to watch. But if you’re able to sit through it, trust me, you’ll never forget how this movie made you feel.

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