Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea (2017)


Summary: An uncle is obliged to return home to care for his nephew after his brother dies. Unknowing he is to be the guardian and struggles with the decision. Throughout the movie he recounts past memories that caused him to leave Manchester and distance himself from his past. -IMDb
Cast and Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this film, I’m going to try to only talk about the main two, with a mention of some of the supporting characters.
  • Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler. He is a quiet and reserved man. He is the janitor of his apartment building and almost seems to be the kind of guy, who works silently in the background to the point where you don’t notice him… but don’t think he won’t respond callously just because he doesn’t talk much. When he finds out his older brother dies, the emotion takes a moment to hit him, he’s very emotionally distant about the whole thing. I think Casey Affleck is a good actor, he’s a bit weird to be honest and just like his brother he talks through his teeth (It’s kind of annoying sometimes) and it works for this character in how silent and withdrawn he is. He goes to Manchester to tell his nephew and is thrust into becoming his guardian due to his brother’s will. The way he handles that news, it’s quite amusing to see the disbelief and frustration on his face. Not to mention, the way he interacts with other people, especially Patrick. I think Affleck is able to maintain a likability about Lee because he can be very unlikable. Not to mention, he handles devastation pretty well… there is a great scene that I won’t spoil, but it almost made me cry.
  • Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler. I liked this kid, I wanted to throttle him a few times due to the way he talked to Lee, but I guess they had that sort of relationship from the beginning. He’s on the hockey team, in a band, has two girlfriends, seems like a smart kid and he learns that his father died from a heart attack. He almost seems to react in the same way Lee does, but I suppose he was prepared for it, as his father had been sick for a while. He deals with it on the night of, by sleeping with one of his girlfriends. Throughout the film, he butts heads with Lee on what to do thanks to the will and he firmly does not want to leave Manchester whereas Lee knows he just cannot come back. Patrick has a bit of a potty mouth on him (which adds to his humor). He has a great scene, where he freaks out in the kitchen. You’ll have to see why for yourself. I think Lucas Hedges did very well here, his accent didn’t seem to falter to me, I think he has a great future ahead of him. He held his own well with Casey Affleck and seemed very natural in his role, he wasn’t forcing anything.
    • I also just have to say, I liked his blonde girlfriend more than the brunette girl. I wanted to punch her in the face lol.
Supporting Characters. 
  • Michelle Williams as Randi. She is Lee’s ex-wife, she is really only shown in flashbacks in which it looked like she and Lee were in a marriage in which they very much loved each other. A few more flashbacks show her irritation at few things he does, but I didn’t think that was a bad thing, as that’s just marriage lol. Later on, she shows her support as she was close with Joe and continued to be even after their divorce. I think her most pivotal scene is when she actually has a moment to speak with Lee and it’s a great scene. It’s sad and desperate and I kind of pitied her. I think Michelle Williams is a great actress, another role in which she is just a natural in it, but I don’t think it’s a memorable performance or anything (especially not to be nominated).
The Story. The death of a family member bringing people together isn’t anything new, nor is the idea of a sibling having to take on responsibility of the child new… but what this movie does that’s a bit different, is make it a character study of both the child and adult. Usually, it’s all about the adult and how they handle their new role, how the children fit into their world and how the adult changes to fit into the children’s world and this movie doesn’t do that. Without spoiling it, it was refreshing. Plus, while it has humor, the tone remains the same, sad. I wouldn’t even say it has a happy ending.
The humor. This movie doesn’t look like it’s going to be funny but it has it’s moments. Patrick brings most of the humor because the stuff he says and does is just plain ridiculous. Lee has his funny moments too in how he doesn’t react to things, or how awkward things happen to him (like at the beginning, he’s working on a tenants toilet after it clogged, and he hears her talking on the phone about how she’s attracted to him… then they have an awkward moment before he leaves her apartment lol). But Patrick being 16 and being sexually active, or trying to be sexually active with one of his girlfriends, or how he tries to get Lee to help him score… it’s weird but funny.
The Relationships. I loved to see the relationships of the characters in the film, especially what we got to see through flashbacks.
  • Lee and Joe Chandler. They are brothers and they have a great relationship. It’s easy to see that Lee looks up to Joe and that he is really affected by his death, due to how big a role he played in his life even when things went horribly wrong for Lee. We also see how Lee feels about the responsibilities Joe puts on him, with what he trusts him with. There was great love there.
  • Lee and Patrick. We mostly see them together in present time, though we do get moments of them in the past. The very first scene is a flashback with them on Joe’s boat. In present time, Lee is tasked with being Patrick’s guardian until he’s 18, and to continue being a trustee until he’s 21 and Lee just balks at that idea, especially since he wants to stay in Boston but Patrick does not want to leave his current life (his two girlfriends lol). Their conversations can turn antagonistic really quickly, but it’s easy to tell that Lee cares for Patrick even if he’s unsure how to handle him now. It’s also easy to tell that Patrick loves Lee and wants to be with him even through his weird teenage ways.
  • Lee and Randi. She’s his ex-wife and outside of the flashbacks, we really only see her three times. One time (current time) is a really pivotal scene for them, her in particular, it was really sad and almost desperate in a way. Something terrible happens to them and it tore them apart. It wasn’t hard to see that she blamed him for it and they went their separate ways. Now that Joe’s death has brought them back together, she confesses a few things to him and it’s painful. Lee is in pain just listening to it. It was done really well.
The Flashbacks. While the transitions could have been better, I think their importance was great in this film. We get to see Lee interact with his older brother, see how much they cared and loved each other, see how great Joe was. We also get to see Lee interact with his family before the current time and leaves us wondering… just what happened to this man that made him into who we see him as today. There is one particular flashback that is devastating.
The Flashbacks. I think there could have been better ways to incorporate them into the film. There are times where it just happens and it’s like ‘whoa wait… is this a flashback?’, it just happens so quickly that it’s jarring and takes a moment to realize what’s happening. It gets a little better as the movie continues, but after the first few ones, it got a little harder to realize it was a flashback.
Boring/Too Slow. This is one of those movies, that while I liked, it can easily be boring and the viewer can check out. Approach this movie with caution, know that it’s long and that there isn’t a lot going on, it’s really a character study more than anything. But it definitely lags in some areas, that make it feel longer than what it is.
Feels stilted. What I mean by this is that moments that should be emotional, or even devastating don’t really feel that way. It almost feels manipulative in a way. Because Lee doesn’t react to things in particular way, it almost comes off fake sometimes.
Abrupt Ending. It just ended, that when the screen faded to black and credits popped up, I was like ‘oh… seemed like there should be more’. I wonder if this was one of those things where the writers were unsure how the end it… because it felt like there was about 10 minutes missing or something.
Overall, I liked Manchester by the Sea. I see why it’s nominated along with Casey Affleck being nominated and I think it’s one of those movies that you’d probably watch once and not really revisit. It’s an experience and once the experience is had, it’s enough. It’s sad, and quiet which works in it’s favor. I think the tone remains the same, even through the flashbacks. Both Lee and Patrick are likable people, as well as being easily disliked, but I think both actors maintain a balance. Due to them being near water, the cinematography has this tint to it, where it just looks gloomy which I don’t think is a bad thing. During winter seasons near water, it looks like that. I thought that was a nice touch. I do think the ending is very abrupt, I also think it will be very boring to some people and that there is a bit of an extra something missing… the heart is missing. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this movie if it wasn’t nominated to be honest. I still liked it though.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Manchester by the Sea? Are you interested? What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!
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