Manchester By The Sea (2016)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 2016, , , , , , , , .  Screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , , .  Music by  .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

A Boston janitor (Casey Affleck) works for demanding tenants all day and drinks alone in his miserable basement apartment at night, except for the evenings he spends picking fights in bars to release his pent-up aggression.  He heads back to his home town when he gets the news that his brother () has died of congestive heart failure, then learns that he not only has to take care of his brother’s property, including a fishing boat whose pricey upkeep needs to be addressed, but has also been appointed guardian to his teenage nephew (a terrific Lucas Hedges).  Affleck is determined to wrap things up and go back to his hovel in the city, denying without explanation his nephew’s pleas that he stay in their town so he can finish school.  Perfectly determined and tonally affecting flashbacks begin to pop up as the present day scenes progress, and the depths of sorrow that the character’s past experiences bring up are ones that sink you deeply into a masterful study of tragedy.  Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, whose films frequently have death as a jumping off point, does better with grief (like this and You Can Count On Me) than with trauma (Margaret); unlike his previous, perpetually miscalculated film, this one succeeds in part because Lonergan never tries to bring anything to a comfortable, pat resolution, and partly because of how much quietly simmering emotion exists beneath these people’s brave, barely coping surfaces.  Affleck does the majority of the work in this regard and is astonishing at making it look easy, timing his responses somewhere between incredulity and offhanded sarcasm and providing the relief of humour that the levels of sadness that are touched upon here greatly need.  Michelle Williams is effective in a supporting role as someone who shares Affleck’s tragic past.

Academy Awards:  Best Actor (Casey Affleck); Best Original Screenplay
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges); Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams); Best Director (Kenneth Lonergan)

Golden Globe Award:  Best Actor-Drama (Casey Affleck)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams); Best Director (Kenneth Lonergan); Best Screenplay

Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations:  Outstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Actor (Casey Affleck); Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges); Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams)

Toronto International Film Festival:  2016


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