Sunday, December 11, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is the story of a lonely janitor who is asked to raise his nephew following the death of his brother as he copes with his own faults in his life. It’s a film where a man reluctantly steps up to do what is right as well as deal with the demons in his own life. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, and Kyle Chandler. Manchester by the Sea is a mesmerizing yet engrossing film from Kenneth Lonergan.

The film is a simple story of a man who learned that his brother died of a heart attack while learning his brother wants him to become his nephew’s guardian. It’s a film that follows this lonely janitor who isn’t just forced to return home and be given the responsibility to watch over his teenage nephew but also cope with the past as he remains troubled by family tragedy. Kenneth Lonergan’s screenplay has narrative that sort of moves back and forth in the life of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) as he reflects on what he had when he was married to a woman named Randi (Michelle Williams) as they had a family. At the same time, he had a good relationship with his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and nephew Patrick (Luca Hedges). Yet, something tragic happened that led to Lee and Randi splitting up and Lee moving away from the small town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts into a town near Boston where he works as a janitor.

The script doesn’t just follow Lee’s reluctance to raise Patrick but also Patrick’s own growing pains as he tries to distract himself from the reality over his father’s death. Especially as he is taken aback by his uncle who appears to not really wanting to be involved with him as he considers the option of reaching out to his estranged mother Elise (Gretchen Mol) whom Lee doesn’t like at all as she was an alcoholic and drug addict that Joe had to separate from. It adds to Lee’s struggle in wanting to do right to his late brother but also contend with the demons in his own life. Even as Lee’s attempt to connect with others has him wanting to be alone and not be reminded of the past where he continuously struggles with loss and wanting to do what is right.

Lonergan’s direction is definitely majestic in terms of the imagery that he creates as well as being shot almost entirely on location in Manchester-by-the-Sea which is a major character in the film as well as other small towns in Massachusetts. Though Lonergan doesn’t really go for anything that is visually-striking, he does present that is still simple in its composition but also has something more in terms of his observation of what is going on. Much of the film is shot during the wintertime as it adds a lot to not just the visuals but also in some of the situations the characters have to cope with. While Lonergan would use wide shots to play into the location and the beauty of wintertime in Massachusetts, he would more favor something intimate with the medium shots and close-ups. Especially in the former as it play into some of the awkward moments Lee would have in his attempts to connect with people such as the mother of one of Patrick’s girlfriends.

Lonergan’s direction is also quite loose as it has bits of humor but also a sense of something real into the world that Patrick is in as he plays hockey and is also in a garage band with friends and one of his girlfriends. The flashbacks of Lee’s life with Randi and their family is also quite loose as it play into the good times as well as what happened that would destroy everything for Lee. There is also something striking about how Lee presents himself in his isolation as it has some truth into that sense of loss where Lonergan’s framing is quite entrancing. Even in moments where he attempts to connect showcase someone that is quite damaged and still trying to get himself back on track. Its conclusion isn’t just about the reality of what Lee has to do for Patrick but also for himself as well as get help from the people who can be relied on in an often complicated world. Overall, Lonergan creates a ravishing yet somber film about a man dealing with the responsibility to taking care of his nephew following the death of his brother.

Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from some of the sunny exteriors of the locations along with more gray and snowy look as well as the way some of the nighttime interior/exteriors are shot and lit. Editor Jennifer Lame does excellent work with the editing as it play into some of the drama and presentation of the flashbacks with the usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts. Production designer Ruth De Jong, with set decorator Florencia Martin and art director Jourdan Henderson, does fantastic work with the look of the single room that Lee lives in Quincy to the home of his brother and the boat they have.

Costume designer Melissa Toth does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual to play into the look of the wintertime. Sound designer Jacob Ribicoff does superb work with the sound as it play into not just the atmosphere of some of the locations but also in the way it is mixed to play into how music is heard on location or things that play into the drama. The film’s music by Lesley Barber is brilliant for its somber yet orchestral-based score that play into melancholic tone of the film while music supervisor Linda Cohen creates a soundtrack that features a lot of opera music as well as a mixture of rock and soul music to play into the locations or what is heard on the radio.

The casting by Douglas Aibel is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Ben O’Brien as the young Patrick, Stephen Henderson as Lee’s boss early in the film, Tom Kemp as Lee and Joe’s father in the flashback scenes, Chloe Dixon and Ellie Teeves as Lee and Randi’s daughters from the flashbacks, Josh Hamilton as Joe’s lawyer Wes, Erica McDermott as a boat yard boss who doesn’t want to give Lee a job for some unknown reasons, Kara Hayward and Anna Baryshnikov in their respective roles as two of Patrick’s girlfriends in Silvie and Sandy, Liam McNeil as Randi’s new husband, and Tate Donovan as Patrick’s hockey coach. C.J. Wilson is fantastic as longtime family friend George who helps out Lee and Patrick while being someone who knows about the family boat and how it works. Heather Burns is wonderful as Sandy’s mother Jill who is wondering what Sandy and Patrick are doing while trying to flirt with Lee as their lone meeting ends up being awkward. Matthew Broderick is superb as Rodney as Elsie’s new fiancĂ©e who is a devout Christian that Patrick tries to get to know as it ends up being very awkward. Gretchen Mol is excellent as Elsie as Patrick’s estranged mother who is infamous for her substance abuse where she responds to Patrick’s email as she invites to a lunch with Rodney that is just very uncomfortable.

Kyle Chandler is brilliant as Joe Chandler as a man that is the embodiment of responsibility and care as he does whatever to help Lee as well as be a good man until he is stricken by a rare heart disease. Lucas Hedges is amazing as Patrick as Joe’s son who doesn’t try to cope with the sudden death of his father but also wanting to stay home to be with friends and his father’s boat as well as wonder why his uncle is reluctant to look after him. Michelle Williams is incredible as Randi as Lee’s ex-wife who was a woman that Lee loved and cared for until tragedy happened as she becomes estranged until she hears about Joe’s death as Williams is just devastatingly radiant in a key scene she has late in the film. Finally, there’s Casey Affleck in a phenomenal performance as Lee Chandler as a man that had everything and lost it all as he tries to cope with the loss of his brother as well as the responsibility he has to bear for his nephew where Affleck displays that air of restraint and anguish into a man trying to isolate himself from the world as well as struggle to do what is right for his family.

Manchester by the Sea is a magnificent film from Kenneth Lonergan that features great performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges. Along with a brilliant supporting cast, an effective screenplay, gorgeous visuals, and a mesmerizing music soundtrack, it’s a film that explores not just grief but also a man coping with responsibility and the need to do right for his family. In the end, Manchester by the Sea is a rapturous film from Kenneth Lonergan.

Kenneth Lonergan Films: You Can Count on Me - Margaret (2011 film)

© thevoid99 2016


ruth said...

Gutted I missed the press screening of this but it was in the morning. I always thought Casey is a good actor, better than his brother surely. Check out my musings on the latest Golden Globes, I'm sure you have an opinion on the noms.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I would totally see this film as it is just astonishing in terms of the storytelling as well as the performances.

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm looking forward to seeing Affleck's performance, but I'm a bit wary of the film. Your review raises my hype though. I hope my theater gets it.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It's coming in wide release this week as I was fortunate that my local multiplex played it along with Nocturnal Animals which I also saw on the same day. It is really worth the ticket price and more as it's just a nice yet engaging drama.

Alex Withrow said...

Affleck gives the performance of the year here, as far as I'm concerned. I've rarely seen emotional hell depicted this accurately.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-Casey I think is a better actor than his brother as he really brings it as there's just something authentic in what he does. He really gives a career-defining performance. Just let Ben do the directing and Casey do the acting. Just as long as Casey doesn't play Robin.