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Tuesday 24 January 2017

Manchester by the Sea, Film USA 2016, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, 9* out of 10

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea is a beautifully written, directed and acted family drama. It is a deeply moving high quality film, with an outstanding performance by Casey Affleck in the main role surrounded by an excellent acting ensemble. Careful choice of music and the beautiful photography do the rest.     

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor in Boston where he lives by himself in modest circumstances, doing his work and trying to keep the demons of the past buried deep inside. His elder brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has brought up a now sixteen-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) mostly as a single dad after a separation from his alcoholic wife Elise (Gretchen Moll). After a not unexpected but difficult loss, a task set him by his brother will severely test Lee and the relationship between uncle and nephew. 

Manchester-by-the-Sea is a beautifully written and directed family drama. One of its strength is that it eschews many of the easy answers and clichés. One instance of this is the portrayal of teenagers sometimes behaving more maturely and supportively than grown-ups is one example of this. The powerful performances by the entire acting ensemble are led by an outstanding pained, passive aggressive Casey Affleck and marvellous supporting performances notably by Michelle Williams (as Lee’s ex-wife Randi).  Flashbacks are built in to the flow of the story effectively without being disruptive or seeming contrived. 

The contrast between the calm serenity of the town of Manchester in Massachusetts (filmed on location Manchester-by-the –Sea, as well as the neighbouring towns of Rockport, Gloucester, Essex and Beverley) and the inner turmoil of the protagonists is underlined by the score which includes a beautiful original chorale by the Canadian composer Lesley Barber and classical pieces by Georg Friedrich Händel and Tomaso Albinoni. The photography is beautiful. 

The movie theatre in Paris, where I saw this film was packed; all of us left this film deeply moved. Highly recommended.  

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