Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

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mv5bmtyxmjk0ndg4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcynja5ote-_v1_sx214_al_A mournful loner, handyman named Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck; “The Finest Hours,” “Gone Baby Gone“) rushes to his hometown upon hearing the news about his brother’s condition in the hospital.

After his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler; “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Argo“), dies, not only Lee is making funeral arrangements and handling his financial and legal affairs, to his disbelief, he has been appointed guardian of Joe’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Patrick has a living mother, but there are reasons why she is not a part of his life.

Returning home is one of the hardest things for Lee, who faces reminders of his painful past, including his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams; “My Week with Marilyn,” “Shutter Island“), and the working class community that whispers behind his back. In the flashbacks, Lee was a happy-go-lucky guy with a loving family and friends. An unfathomable tragedy broke him and drove him out of town.

The day-to-day interactions between Lee and Patrick, dealing with typical teenage issues, provide some of the lighter moments. Although it’s clear that sorrow hangs heavy in the air. Affleck simmers with searing hurt, guilt and grief, with occasional fits of rage. There are two major scenes that are tear-jerkingly devastating. Emotionally crushing performance by Affleck and Williams.

“Manchester by the Sea” is exquisitely shot, with the winter seaside town as an integral part of the film. Snowy streets, gray skies, cold seas and fishing trips. There’s even a disconcerting talk about what to do with the departed, which would not have been a conversation in the first place outside of the New England freezing winter.

Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” pulls you in gently and it’s soberly absorbing. It feels like real life, with messiness and setbacks. Not everything broken can be made whole again. A simple slice of life story, yet a complicated one.

Copyright (c) 2016.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

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