The previews for Manchester by the Sea tells you you’re in for a good thing.
And boy does it deliver.
Kenneth Lonergan, a theatre junkie, known for writing plays such as This is Our Youth and The Starry Messenger; as well as Hollywood stuff including Margaret, Gangs of New York, Analyze That, etc., is brilliant and real and honest and raw.
Manchester by the Sea is no different to his other works. A story exploring the fine delicate onion-like layers of grief, with all the rich flavors that make you laugh and weep at the same time.
Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a down-on-his-luck handyman who mostly survives doing janitorial work around town. A divorced man of few words, Lee plugs along in life without much joy or exertion.
But when his older brother dies of a heart attack, he’s suddenly thrust into a situation he seems especially ill-equipped to handle, the raising of his brother’s 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a sweet actor who immediately warms your heart. However, Michelle Williams wins my heart. Her work in this movie is gripping and chokes you with awe. What an actress, a true hero of mine. So real, so thorough, so emotional volatile.
This film also salutes a slew of theatre work-horses including Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Susan Pourfar, Josh Hamilton and on. These guys are magic and spring their characters off the page like I haven’t seen in a long time.
This story is a true Street Level Miracle, a film that commits to the derailments that embody conflict, however flawed and fully human. I believe such stories are a vital and absolutely necessary elixir for our society. Lonergan explains it best, “The details of life that are often skipped over in films create tremendous drama in real life, and that’s my way in sometimes.”
Well said Lonergan, and very well done.