‘Manchester by the Sea’: A Bittersweet Tale of Heartache, Compassion and Familial Dysfunction
In “Manchester by the Sea” (2016), Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a lonely handyman toiling away in solitude near Boston when he receives word one cold winter day that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has succumbed to congestive heart disease. Summoned home to the titular North Shore community, Lee is stunned to learn that Joe has unexpectedly deemed him to serve as the legal guardian to his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), an acerbic youth focused on little more than hockey and girls.
As frightened is he is by the prospect of guardianship, Lee is even further haunted by a horrific family tragedy that makes his return home all-the-more more distressing. The story plays out as a tense but wryly amusing drama built around Lee and Patrick’s burgeoning relationship, as Lee strains to provide the support and compassion that Patrick desperately needs, despite his often caustic manner.
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan ("You Can Count On Me", "Margaret"), “Manchester by the Sea” is a profound and bittersweet tale of reunion and heartache, with Casey Affleck delivering a powerhouse, Academy Award-winning performance that ranks up there with the best of the past decade. Lonergan laces the screenplay with moments of humor and candor, lending to the story’s depth and featuring wonderfully naturalistic dialogue throughout. It’s the type of resounding emotional experience that never panders to the audience but rather offers up a genuinely authentic portrait of the human condition.
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