“Manchester by the Sea” is heartbreaking and one of 2016’s best

Casey Affleck  Michele Williams Manchester by the Sea
Right at the top, I’ll put this out there…Manchester by the Sea is one of my absolute favorite films of the year. This week, audiences will finally understand what my colleagues at the Sundance Film Festival first went over the moon for. From Park City to the Telluride Film Festival to the New York Film Festival, Kenneth Lonergan’s latest has been amassing admirers. It’s well founded love too, as this is just a stupendously great and moving motion picture. Without question, it’s one of 2016’s very best and a surefire Oscar contender. Even if the Academy wasn’t likely to fawn over it, it would be a must see. Being a potential frontrunner in at least one category is just a happy bonus.

The movie, at its most simple, is the story of an uncle called upon to care for his teenaged nephew when his brother/the boy’s father, passes away. That just scratches the surface, however. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has been away from the titular town for years now, dealing with something we’ll eventually come to find out about. Initially, he only returns for a brief stay following the untimely passing of Joe (Kyle Chandler). Lee has always liked young Patrick (Lucas Hedges), but in his words, he’s just a “back up”. When Joe’s will states that Patrick should stay with Lee, he fights that notion, knowing he can’t stay in Manchester. An encounter with his ex wife Randi (Michelle Williams) helps to explain why. I don’t want to explain much about this film, since it’s best left discovered. Just know that it’s brilliant. Longergan writes and directs, with the supporting cast also including Matthew Broderick, Tate Donovan, Josh Hamilton, Liam McNeill, Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, and more. Jody Lee Lipes contributes the cinematography, while the score is by Lesley Barber.

Casey Affleck alone  Manchester by the Sea
For my money, Casey Affleck gives the performance of the year to date. He will absolutely break your heart. Not only is he assured of a Best Actor nomination (more on that next), he’s easily the frontrunner as well. The performance of his career so far, it’s almost beyond words. Both Hedges and Williams are incredible as well, making for a powerhouse trio, led of course by Affleck. Lonergan’s writing has always been brilliant, as it is here, but his direction is even more beautiful than usual. Seriously folks, this is a basically perfect movie. It’s one of the five best things I’ve seen all year.

Manchester by the Sea should do quite well, awards wise. An across the board campaign is being waged, with Best Picture, Best Director (for Lonergan), Best Actor (for Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (for Chandler and especially for Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (for Williams), Best Original Screenplay (for Lonergan as well), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Nominations in Picture, Actor for Affleck (the odds on favorite to win right now, as mentioned above), and Original Screenplay for Lonergan seem all but locks right now, with Director a possibility for Lonergan too, while Williams is certainly in play for Supporting Actress. Especially with precursor love, this is a flick that seems poised to rack up the nominations.

Plain and simple, this is a brilliant film. This weekend, audiences are lucky enough to finally see what all the raves are about when Manchester by the Sea opens in limited release. The beginning of a platform release plan, it’ll hopefully be everywhere in a few weeks. From Affleck’s earth shattering lead turn to Lonergan’s pinpoint filmmaking, everything just works here in a big bad way. I can’t see how any serious fan of cinema wouldn’t go gaga over this one. Don’t you dare miss this movie, ladies and gentlemen. It gets my highest recommendation and very well might be an outright masterpiece…

Manchester by the Sea boat
Be sure to check out Manchester by the Sea, beginning its theatrical run tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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