Kenneth Lonergan continues to bolster his small yet impressive resumé of fantastic writing (and directing) with this heart-wrenching drama starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.  This movie has been getting all the buzz around award season, and for all the right reasons!

The Good

This is What Outstanding Writing Will Give You


Kenneth Lonergan has truly outdone himself with this one.  All of these characters are so superbly fleshed out that it genuinely feels real.  This story is full of complex characters and situations, yet they are all completely believable (and man is it a tug on the old heartstrings)!  I adore how this film explores the event of loss in one’s life, and I love how well these characters react to these events even more so.  We don’t get the entire story behind these character’s actions until later in the film, but it is so emotionally powerful when we do.  This is 2016’s Room for me in that I was not expecting it to be so moving, so poignant, so good.

Casey Affleck is Taking Home Some Hardware


There’s a reason that a lot of the buzz surrounding this film is circling Casey Affleck because he gives, without question, one of the best performances of the year.  Affleck plays a very broken and reserved handyman named Lee Chandler.  While his character is very well written, Casey brings this character to screen in such a shockingly lifelike way.  This is a man who has clearly gone through some serious stuff in his life and shuts himself away from the world and those who desire to help.  Once he’s forced to relive or confront these obstacles, things start to get really misty-eyed, and it is breathtaking.

Refreshingly Non Cliché


When you watch as many movies as I have, you slowly become more accustomed to typical narrative clichés and are plagued with the ability to predict what might happen in a scene before it actually does.  Throughout the entirety of Manchester by the Sea I had no idea what was going to happen next.  This is another testament to Lonergan’s fantastic writing, but I have to praise this movie again for being so incredibly realistic.  It was like I wasn’t even watching a movie but instead a snippet of time in this family’s life as it was unfolding.  Every scene had purpose.  There wasn’t a sappy outpouring of emotions or people over-dramatically throwing phones after difficult conversations; just real people dealing with real issues in a real way.

The Bad

Odd Editing


I struggle to list this a bad thing because it actually kind of works with the theme of the movie.  Life is ever-changing and things do begin and end abruptly.  It also plays into what I had mentioned about it being so non-cliché.  Shots tend to hold on certain closeups longer than one may feel they should, making you feel uncomfortable or live in that moment with the character.  Still, there are moments where it does feel a little out of place, but this is honestly very minor nitpicking at this point.

An Ending Without Closure


Again, I struggle to list this as a bad thing because it plays into the film’s realism so well!  We’re so used to stories’ endings wrapped in little bows, with characters sailing into the sunset and living happily ever after, but that just doesn’t happen in the real world.  However, while I may not agree, a general audience may find the ending a little too vague and want a little more closure than what is given.

The Tally

Performances: 5/5

  • Casey Affleck may very well get his first Oscar for this movie.  I firmly believe that everyone is chasing second place at this point.  Yes, he’s that good.
  • Michelle Williams is also Oscar worthy in this film and gives a very emotional performance.  I just wish we would’ve gotten more of her!
  • The supporting cast does as terrific job building this story up.

Direction: 5/5

  • I think this is Kenneth Lonergan’s best work in the director’s seat by far.
  • This is definitely one of the most emotionally spurring films of the year.
  • Every scene is finely crafted and executed to perfection.

Production: 4/5

  • The cinematography is beautiful in this film.  Again, it’s as if the screen was replaced with a window, and we are merely peering into this man’s life.
  • A small nitpick, but the editing in some areas was a little abrupt.  It worked well for most of the film though.

Writing: 5/5

  • Kenneth’s writing is something to behold in this picture.
  • Characters are so multifaceted and lifelike!
  • I wasn’t watching a movie, I was watching a man and his family experience loss.

Score: 4/5

  • Leslie Barber gives us a beautiful score for this film.
  • This score was little more on the establishing side and filled in the scenes between most of heavy hitting emotional ones.  Although there is one in particular that truly hits you hard and the score elevates immensely.

Entertainment: 5/5

  • While this movie is very tragic most of the way through, there is actually a lot of great humor in it as well.
  • You can’t help but laugh at some of the more awkward encounters Lee Chandler and his nephew, Patrick (played by Lucas Hedges), have!
  • This movie is so refreshing, well written, and brilliantly performed that it’s hard to not to enjoy it.

Total Score: 28/30

Final Score: 9.3/10

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Manchester by the Sea was an unbelievable surprise for me and is one of my favorite films of the year.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Kenneth Lonergan’s work in the future, especially if he keeps turning in work of this caliber.  Have you seen this film yet?  Do you think Casey’s got this Oscar in the bag?  Let me know what you think below!