Manchester by the Sea is one of the best dramas to be released in 2016. As a Boston janitor who returns home to Manchester following the death of his brother, Casey Affleck delivers one of his strongest performances to date. He should receive his first Oscar nomination since 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, the movie stars Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol and C.J. Wilson.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is working as a janitor when he finds out that his brother died back in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Traveling home to take care of the funeral arrangements, Lee learns that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), has appointed him as the guardian of his son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee packs up his Boston apartment to move to Manchester-by-the-Sea so that he can look after Patrick.
The Chandlers are a family that have lived the the village for generations and we get told their story through flashbacks that only serve to strengthen the film’s purpose. Meanwhile, Lee is still haunted by his past. Drunk one night, he walks to the store and doesn’t remember if he put the screen up in front of the fire place. Walking back, he looks to see his house on fire. His wife, Randi (Michelle Williams) is devastated and two of their children die in the fire as a result. No charges were filed against him as it was only an accident, Lee still feels responsible for what happened.
Both Lee and Patrick have to adjust to a life without Joe. For the both of them, their lives will never be the same.
Both Matt Damon and John Krasinski serve as producers of the Massachusetts-set film. Damon was originally tabbed to make his directorial debut as well as star in the feature but scheduling conflicts prevented him from doing so. Affleck took over for Damon in the role of Lee Chandler.
“Manchester by the Sea is a beautiful movie about a man who has to take care of his nephew after his brother dies,” Damon says. “The problem is that coming back to his hometown means he has to face the greatest tragedy of his life.”
Lonergan’s screenplay is simply amazing and could very well win the Oscar.
Premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January, Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions distributed Manchester by The Sea in limited release on November 18th. It is playing in 156 theaters as of this weekend.