Heart-achingly honest and touching tale.
Kenneth Lonergan’s latest is the hydraulic press of dramas. Familiar themes, family and grief, are tackled hard with courage and focus, but drawn out gently till it, deservingly so, takes a tear or two from you.
Lee (Casey Affleck) is a janitor, who keeps himself to himself, going through his days and generally ending them with a drunken scrap at a bar. When his brother dies, he becomes his nephew’s legal guardian, forcing him to consider how his life is and where it is going.
Affleck’s quiet, brooding act is one he’s perfected, but now it is thrown into a narrative where it is perfect. At first you can’t help but dislike Lee, boring those he meets or more often pissing them off. But, when his resting contemptuous expression is given reason in a nightmarish sequence of truly horrific proportions, your heart will shatter.
We’re given insight into Lee’s life through a series of flashbacks, showings times where he could muster more than a grunt or a dissatisfied smile. Occasionally they are accompanied by an enduring, beautiful score that grips the viewer like a cold, sea chill.
It’s a career highlight for Affleck, but there’s not a single cast member at fault here. His nephew, given life by the young but by-no-means-lacking Lucas Hedges, continually supplies laughs, as well as developing both himself and Affleck’s layered, troubled relationship.
The humour, whether it is of a darker tone (Lee trying to get out of being his nephew’s guardian) or the simple bickering between the pair, saves the film from drowning in an ocean of self-pity, feeling more true-to-life and touching the emotions of every viewer.
Every conversation, every look, every shot, everything – it’s the type of production that others aspire to. At times it’s a serious drama, at others it’s a comedy, and there’s even coming-of-age elements to consider. With players like Kyle Chandler on hand to boost it, it’s hard to imagine a world where someone can’t enjoy this film.
To sum it up…
Manchester by the Sea is a showcase of incredible performances and expert writing. Consider how stellar the direction is, and you have a serious Oscar contender.
Rating: PURE DYNAMITE!
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Author: Cameron Frew