Manchester by the Sea is a refreshing film for a multitude of reasons, the main one being that it’s incredibly rare to see movies about PEOPLE anymore. It’s easy to get a case of franchise fatigue among modern audiences thanks to what seems to be an endless parade of blockbusters, remakes, and unnecessary sequels.

Instead of getting bogged down by a cynical attitude over the current climate about the creative output in Hollywood, director Kenneth Lonergan decided to DO SOMETHING about it. Lonergan created an incredibly human tale about the pain of moving forward that is simply delivered and extremely well crafted. The movie breaks your heart only to make the audience watch the story put it back together again with emotionally-detailed performances about the terror of intimacy.

The film is the boldly emotional tale of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a hardworking, blue-collar guy trying to put the pieces of his life back together. Upon first glance, Lee is a lovable loner that has clearly lived through more than his fair share of tragedy. He lives a quiet life of solitude and keeps to himself until he’s forced to return to his hometown of Manchester, Massachusetts after his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies. After years of living alone by his own decision, Lee is thrust into realizing that he is now the legal guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

As Lee remembers his relationship with Joe through a series of mesmerizing flashbacks, it dawns on him that Joe was the only consistently supportive person in his life. Lee must now help Patrick reconcile the death of his father and figure out who will care for the boy while trying to deal with his own emotionally damaged spirit. While dealing with funeral arrangements, the hospital morgue, and lawyers, Lee struggles to begin acting like a father again as the story reveals his troubled past with his own kids. Once you compound all of these emotional factors that culminate in an unpredictable way, the love of Lee’s life Randi (Michelle Williams) tries to make amends with him.

Casey Affleck is absolutely stunning thanks to his transformative performance as a leading man in a way that audiences have never seen from him before. He seamlessly brings Lee alive on screen subtly, which creates the character into the heartbeat of the story and gives the film a firm sense of emotional continuity. This is easily the breakthrough performance of his career that solidifies him as a skilled leading man in unsuspecting ways. Affleck truly succeeds when it comes to crafting a character that is SO real, rather than someone who helps audiences escape into other worlds.

What makes Manchester by the Sea a winner is that you feel like you have already spent a lifetime with these people the second they step on screen. These characters behave as if they have lived around the corner from you, or someone in your family, for years. The world that director Kenneth Lonergan has created in the film prides itself on being down-to-earth and has both of its feet planted on the ground. While most movies hinge themselves on the suspension of disbelief, this movie works because it is so incredibly believable.

If you are looking for a movie that empathizes with the audience members and how each of us has to learn to deal with life, love, death and loss, look no further. This little gem of a flick truly shines because you just don’t see this kind of fare from Hollywood anymore, which is exactly why it succeeds in standing out. Affleck rightfully earned his Oscar nomination this year for Best Leading Actor and this is a film that looks like it will stand the test of time for years to come.

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios
Release Date: November 18, 2016 (United States)
Run Time: 137 minutes

Check out a Manchester by the Sea official movie trailer


After graduating with a degree in Media Studies and Journalism from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, ON, Alex has been covering pop culture events since 2009. He has covered major festivals like Osheaga, North by North East, Edgefest, and Heavy T.O and interviewed members of the Foo Fighters and Carlos Santana (who featured the interview in his memoir) and more. Alex has also spoken with filmmakers like writer/director Shane Black (Iron Man 3), writer George Pelecanos (The Wire, The Deuce), feature film directors, actors, stunt coordinators and more. His passion for film lead him to write original screenplays and even made the Second Round of the Austin Film Festival in 2019. He loves movies, music, reading, writing, and festivals of all kinds while he works on his next feature film spec script.