Customary Oscar drama. So this is about a janitor/handyman (Casey Affleck). He’s got some baggage, and really just wants to be left alone. His life is in for a big shake-up when his older brother (Kyle Chandler) passes, and he seems to be the only immediate family member even remotely fit to care for his surviving high school son (Lucas Hedges). Now this is getting a ton of Oscar buzz, so I felt obligated to go out of my way to check this out. I thought the trailers to this looked melodramatic to the nth degree, but positive reviews are typically enough sway me into at least watching something. While this wasn’t my very favorite movie of the year like I was hoping for, it is very well made, and it brings the drama in a compelling story.
It’s a situation that you can sympathize with, even if you haven’t lived through it.
The reason why Manchester by the Sea is getting such great word of mouth is its authenticity; every bit of this feels genuine, and it does a great job at laying out why everybody feels the way that they do in this delicate situation. The thing that you probably wouldn’t guess about this movie is that it has a sense of humor about it. Just looking at a trailer or reading a synopsis, you would thing that this would just be as drab as can be. This is not the case. There are cleverly written lines of dialogue in this, and there are some exchanges where the only reaction you can possibly have is to laugh. All of the performances given here are great, especially from Casey Affleck. He has a nice chemistry with Hedges, and both of their characters have the most at stake, so you can see why they both care so much. Also turning in quality work is the beautiful Michelle Williams, although you shouldn’t expect for her to be featured for all that long, as this is not her story.
I’m pretty sure there’s some unwritten rule that says that she’s not allowed to be happy in movies.
This is one of the most Boston/northeastern movie you can see this year, but I suppose that could all change when Casey’s brother’s film drops (or the new Wahlberg movie). You have to be tough to live up there, and I can tell you that this Florida man does not miss the snow. While I did appreciate this movie all over the place, I can’t say that it is one of my upper echelon movies of the year like I was hoping for it to be; I never established that emotional connection that really took me to the next level, but maybe that’s just me. Once you find out why Casey Affleck’s character is the way that he is, the movie does ratchet the drama up, and I will say that at a 137-minute runtime, I was never bored, nor did I ever feel the length. If you like Oscar movies, then by all means, check this out.
Manchester by the Sea (2016) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.