Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Cast includes: Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), Kyle Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty), C.J. Wilson (The Intern), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom), Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Writer/Director: Kenneth Lonergan (Analyze This, Margaret)
Genre: Drama (137 minutes)
“I can see it all laid out like a map,” says Lee as the Claudia Marie navigates the waters off the Massachusetts coast. Lee and his brother Joe have a running competition about their different ways of doing things, such as navigating the picturesque waters around Manchester. Lee tries to get his nephew Patrick to side with him, but the kid’s loyal to his dad. When the scene changes, it’s winter and Lee is shoveling snow outside an apartment building in suburban Boston. He goes from there to a problem lock, a stopped up toilet and on to some leaky plumbing. Lee is the building handyman, and when tenants are rude, Lee dishes it right back. We soon find out that Lee has a lot of anger under his calm exterior, and it sometimes gets him in trouble.
When Lee gets the call, it’s not totally unexpected. “I’ll be up there in an hour and a half.” He calls a friend to fill in for him while he’s away… "about a week." “I’m so sorry… he passed away about an hour ago,” George tells Lee. “We were working on the boat, and he just fell over. I thought he was kidding at first.” In a flashback, we learn that Joe had congestive heart failure, and when pressed for a time horizon, Dr. Bethany thought he might have 5 to 10 years. This isn’t Lee’s first hurried trip to Manchester, but he only comes back when Joe needs him. So when Patrick sees Uncle Lee at his hockey game, he knows it’s bad news. Maybe that explains the fight Patrick gets into on the ice. That’s what his coach wants to believe. For now, Patrick and Uncle Lee have to get through the funeral and tie up the legal issues. “Should I call my mom?” “No one even knows where she is,” says Lee. In flashbacks, we learn about the drinking and the bad divorce. At the lawyer’s office, Lee learns that he’s been named Patrick’s guardian. “I don’t understand. I can’t be his guardian.” But apparently, Joe worked out all the details. “Hey, I’m just a back up.” “Lee. No one can appreciate what you’ve been through,” the lawyer says, hoping he’ll reconsider.
Through flashbacks, we gradually get the backstory. And through ongoing day-to-day events, we watch as Lee struggles to find a way forward. After all, Patrick needs him… or does he? One minute Patrick is comfortable with Lee’s being there. The next minute… “You’re a fucking asshole!” It’s apparent that a volatile temper runs in the family. Manchester by the Sea is a sensitive exploration of grief and family connections. Most of the credit goes to the extraordinary acting… some scenes are just heartbreaking. This film might be a bit low key for some moviegoers. The trailer gives us the impression that the film is going to be rather melodramatic, but it isn’t… quite the opposite. Over the course of revealing moments, we come to appreciate how grief can destroy someone’s life. Obviously Joe thought becoming Patrick’s guardian would renew Lee’s will to start living a normal life again. Lee wants Patrick to move back to Boston with him, but Patrick has a life in Manchester… school, a band, hockey and 2 girlfriends. “You’re a janitor in Boston… what the hell do you care where you live?” But that’s just it… Lee does care… more than others can appreciate.
4 popped kernels
An uncle with a tragic past becomes the guardian of his teenaged nephew
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Sexual Content)
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House & Mainstream Limited Release
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Death in the family and grief
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking