Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a handyman who appears to lead a monotonous and solitary life, his days revolving around un-clogging toilets and fixing pipe work. After the death of his brother, Lee returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to organise funeral arrangements, and is confronted with an unexpected task by the notary: guardianship of his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Manchester by the Sea then follows these two characters, with Lee attempting to find an alternative solution to the situation. Along the way other family issues surface, involving Patrick’s alcoholic mother and Lee’s ex-wife Randi, but Lee’s tortured and complex character is the film's focus, with the plot gradually revealing details of his past.
Lonergan successfully carries out this ambitious piece by compelling you to be absorbed by the unravelling of events: it soon becomes apparent that there are many elements of the story that are unknown, elements that have had significant influence on Lee’s current detached and aggressive nature. Flashbacks, paralleling the present circumstances of Lee and Richard, are used to engage intrigue about Lee's past, and what must have happened to cause for such significant change in character – the contrast between 'past' and 'present' personalities is so distinct.
In this way, Lonergan builds up a family history that's more complicated than it's first perceived to be, and through the uncle-nephew relationship the audience witnesses the dramatic costs of loss and pain. But even under such a heavy atmosphere the cast bring moments of humour that, for short moments, distract from the gravity of the situation. Casey Affleck's incredible performance of the tormented Lee does justice to the complexity of the character, and Michelle Williams does such a good job as Randi that it's a shame she has such little screen-time.
With the help of his actors, Lonergan brings this original and emotional drama to life.
|What||Manchester by the Sea film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
13 Jan 17 – 13 Mar 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|