Nominated for Best Picture at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Director (Kenneth Lonergan) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Kenneth Lonergan is a great writer. I knew this when I called his “You Can Count On Me”, the 2nd best film of the year 2000, and then realized later that it should’ve held the top slot. I also slightly underestimated his troubled “Margaret” a few years back. Repeat looks forced me to realize how truly special it is. But I was ready for him this time, upon the occasion of Mr. Lonergan’s 3rd official feature as screenwriter and director. And “Manchester by the Sea” is brilliant. Quite possibly, it’s my favorite film of 2016. So, I believe that it’s time we officially label Lonergan a great director too. It’s only just.
Lee Chandler (an amazing Casey Affleck…Oscar calling!) is introduced as a humble janitor, living meagerly in a small, New England town. But he’s unexpectedly called back to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, after receiving a message about a family tragedy. Upon arriving there, Lee goes to find his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges is splendid), and informs him of the unfortunate happening. Take note, that the film uses a device involving seamless flashbacks, and the viewer is required to shift time more than once. So, when we meet Lee’s wife, Randi (Michelle Williams, always strong), knowing that he’s currently single, we start to wonder if there’s a hidden family tragedy too. There is–and it’s shattering.
Mr. Lonergan has a keen sense for how people speak and behave, and Mr. Affleck proves to be the perfect interpreter of his prose here. I already knew he was a gifted actor, upon his previous Oscar nomination (for 2007’s extraordinary “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”). But this is Affleck’s true arrival. His tortured Lee is a mesmerizing, uncompromising creation. Mr. Lonergan knew exactly how much finesse and patience to employ here. The quietude and ennui are staggering. Young Lucas Hedges is quite adroit as teenage Patrick, and Kyle Chandler is superb as Lee’s older brother, Joe. And Michelle Wiliams never misses a beat in her brief scenes, her final one obviously the Oscar showcase. Lonergan regular Matthew Broderick appears as well, in a film that languors in its silences, respects its actors immensely, and manages to be perfectly dignified, and marvelously unpredictable, in its search through a tortured life. Or lives rather. “Manchester” is unmissable.