When Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is pulled but to his home town on the Massachusetts coast, it takes him on a journey that he had buried deep in his memory.
On the surface Manchester By The Sea may not offer up a lot, telling the story of a Handyman who clearly has an attitude problem. But dig a little deeper and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan slowly peels back the layers of his leading man as he deals with the death of his brother and how to be a guardian to his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
From the early scenes of the film you immediately know there is something troubling the sombre Lee, who has the constant look of down on his luck slapped across his face. It is almost like he is constantly in purgatory for something which no one knows – until it is later revealed to the viewer later down the line.
Following the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee is forced to confront what has put him through hell and back, and with flashbacks it is the picture slowly started to become clear for the audience.
The exact circumstance of Lee’s tragedy is finally laid bare in a truly harrowing scene. It’s a typically understated sequence — this is not a film that milks its twists for dramatic impact — and all the more devastating for it, with Lonergan’s camera focusing on the faces of bystanders as the emergency services buzz around them. It’s a smart narrative device.
What happen’s next really show’s the audience the type of man Lee is. A short scene in the police station, ends with a quick draw of an officers pistol, and then the audience is brought back to the present day.
Despite relying heavily on the bleak emotion of family tragedy, Manchester By The Sea does have some quick one liners in the exchanges between Lee and Patrick and this is what brings the film home, is that this is a real relationship and that this situation could happen to anyone.
With Oscar season just around the corner, this would be my personal pick for feature film of the year, but we will have to wait and see whether the judges think the same.
JUST AN INSIGHT SCORE: 8/10