Review: ‘Manchester By The Sea’ Is A Grief-Driven, Emotional Character Study
“Manchester by the Sea” is an emotional exhibition of quality filmmaking.
“Manchester by the Sea” follows the story of Lee Chandler. After his brother dies, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) travels home to take care of his brother’s son. Unknowingly, he is also designated as the boy’s guardian but Lee’s troubled past creates an emotional struggle for which he was not prepared.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 5
“Manchester by the Sea” is focused on character development first and foremost. The main character Lee is quiet and reserved but there’s an apparent internal conflict within. As the film progresses, Lee’s enigmatic past begins to unravel. This top-down approach to developing the character creates intrigue through mystery and in turn creates a more lasting connection. Throughout the movie, I found myself pondering upon why Lee was so disconnected and what created these characteristics. This deciphering maintained its progressive fluidity from start to finish breaking down his emotional barriers as well as my own.
Through this process I began to understand why Casey Affleck has received so much acclaim for his performance. On the surface his character may seem one dimensional. His reclusive personality leaves little room for emotional diversity. What really makes Affleck’s performance so incredible are the emotions that he holds back. As a man stricken by grief, it is the tension exhibited that defines authenticity. Creating a character that obviously feels but is forcing himself not to feel is why Affleck excels. It felt like he was wanting to release throughout and I absorbed that feeling as well. This is a prime of example of a performance where less is more.
It’s easy to see that Affleck steals the spotlight but other cast members just supplement this tragic story. Michelle Williams is typically at her best and that carries on to “Manchester by the Sea.” For all of the emotion that Lee lacks, his ex wife Randi establishes one of the most heartfelt exchanges between Lee and herself. Kyle Chandler remains a constant by creating a juxtaposition between himself and his brother. He exhibits the qualities of a strong, happy father which emphasizes Lee’s pain when the two share a scene. Lucas Hedges showcases another layer of Affleck’s character by providing a strong performance himself. As a teenager also experiencing grief from the loss of his father, he also has a few walls to break down, but his walls crumble more easily. As the two share screen time the tension is amplified and Lee is put to the test when Lucas’ barriers begin to fall.
Overall “Manchester by the Sea” is a cinematic masterpiece. The focus lies on its characters and the actors never miss a step. It’s intimately honest and this attribute is what makes “Manchester by the Sea” an example in quality filmmaking.
Entertainment Value – 4
There are many captivating elements of “Manchester by the Sea” for general audiences. Lee establishes intrigue early on and the piecemeal approach of unraveling his past keeps the plot moving forward. The anticipation of discovery prevents moments from becoming stagnant despite there being a reliance on the characters’ internal conflict.
In between the character development, the visual depiction of Massachusetts provides an inner look at the state that we rarely see in film. It’s not the usual Bostonian view we commonly see and feels a lot more relatable. This is another element that adds to a story that figuratively hits close to home.
Re-Watchability – 3.5
The grief-stricken tone of the film may be an element that many would not like to relive. But for the cinephiles that appreciate quality filmmaking and strong performances (myself included), there are definitely multiple viewings to be had.
Casey Affleck shines in this grief-stricken story of coping with loss. With solid performances all around and an honest, intimate story, "Manchester by the Sea" is an example of quality filmmaking.