When his brother dies, Lee Chandler is forced to return to his hometown that holds bad memories for him and once he arrives, responsibility is thrust upon him in the form of his 16 year old nephew.
‘Manchester by the Sea’ is slow, cathartic, melancholic and raw. The varying stages of grief are nailed every time, allowed a slow build and then occasionally a quick burst of raw emotion. Casey Affleck is a triumph in this film, you truly feel his pain, as his history is revealed with the town you start to understand why he is the way he is.
The use of flashbacks makes the film feel very powerful, going from a happy Lee who smiles and makes jokes, and then slapping you with the current Lee, who is just an empty husk of a person. It allows you to empathise with Lee and his situation and gives you an insight into how much past events have affected this person.
Speaking of the flashbacks, Michelle Williams wasn’t given anything special to do, it isn’t until her character meets back with Lee that she is given something to work with and she not only works with it, she excels at it, honestly, this could be the best performance of her career. In just a very small scene she conveyed so much emotion, so much pain that it was palpable and heart wrenching.
The film is beautiful in its simplicity, it feels natural, it feels raw. There is only a couple shots where it was overtly obvious it was a film, one of them involves Patrick with a stick, which once you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what scene that is. For the most part though the film was so raw and gritty that it felt genuine.
As is the case with similar films of this type, having a satisfying ending is difficult, there was a particular ending that was foreshadowed, that if it had happened, it would have been awful, but would have felt natural. The ending they went with wasn’t satisfying and it didn’t provide closure, but that works in parallel to the characters and their lives, so while it works, it could have been better.
‘Manchester by the Sea’ perfectly encapsulates raw human emotion and conveys it in an effective way. It is because of this that the pacing is slow and at times, painfully slow, but that is the only way to effectively convey the emotions of bereavement and it does it so damn well.