A review of the new film “Manchester By The Sea”

I spent the first 23 years of my life living in what i regard as the original Manchester in north-west England, so I was always going to be intrigued by the title of this film. The small fishing town in Massachusetts is a character in itself and different scenes feature prominently in the cinematography.

In fact, by the time I saw the movie at the cinema, Casey Affleck had already deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his stunning – often understated – performance as Lee Chandler, a Boston janitor who has to return to his home town where he is astonished to find that, following the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), he has been given custody of his 16 year old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

The story starts with winter scenes of Lee’s life in Boston and it looks like this is a man with immense attitude. Only later do we learn, though one of many flash-backs, that this is not attitude, but grief, guilt and white-hot anger. Affleck is rarely off the screen and gives a powerful and moving portrayal of a man that just cannot come to terms with his loss. This is not “About A Boy” (2002) where the youngster softens the man; this is more “Ordinary People” (1980) where deep pain has no ultimate resolution.

Among so many memorable scenes, two stand out: one in which very little is said and the music of Albinoni’s Adagio has rarely been more heart-rending and another in which Joe meets his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) when little more is said but grief is shown to be unbridgeable. Writer and director Kennth Lonergan has given us a genuine tour de force.


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