Thursday, May 18, 2017

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea (2016) written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Casey Affleck is Lee Chandler, a maintenance guy in Boston who's uncommunicative, unpleasant, but very good at the job. He has little joy or satisfaction in his life, apparently doing nothing other than his job and drinking (with the occasional bar fight). Until he gets the call that his brother has died in Manchester, the town where they grew up. His brother left a son, Patrick, who Lee has to take care of since the mom left a long time ago. Lee is reluctant to stay in Manchester and just wants to get things settled so he and the teenager can go back to Boston. But Patrick has a life and lots of friends in Manchester. Can Lee come to an understanding with his nephew and a reconciliation with his old home town?

The story is very low-key and slowly reveals more of the character of Lee and why he is so closed up inside of himself. The character exploration is fascinating and Affleck definitely deserves the acting accolades he has received. Lee has a lot more going on under the surface. The movie is very good except for some heavy-handed scoring, especially for a key flashback that loses a lot of its emotional impact because the score is practically blaring "this is so sad!" far too early and far too much. It doesn't ruin the film but makes the deliberate pacing seem slow and dragged out. I think the scene would have played much better without the accompaniment, and for the rest of the film any time music started I was worried about it being overblown again. It's a shame because otherwise the movie is a good drama. I found the ending disappointing but can see what the filmmakers were going for.


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