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Review: Manchester by the Sea


Casey Affleck has been in the paper a lot recently for not the right reasons. Without getting involved or placing an opinion of the alleged allegations against Casey Affleck, I believe his career in Hollywood and acting should not be judged by his actions outside of acting. This is my own personal viewpoint, and shall be throughout my review of Manchester by the Sea.


Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Machester follows the events from the perspective of Joe Chandler, a handyman from Quincy, Massachusetts, after he receives a call of word that his brother is having a heart attack. Arriving too late in Manchester, Joe is given the guardianship of his brothers son Patrick. The majority of the film is in the present day as Joe tries to figure out what to do with Patrick, whilst having a total disconnect to the town itself. For the rest of the film, flashbacks are used as exposition to explain why Joe is the way he is, and how he came to leave Manchester to live in Quincy in the first place. Without spoiling anything major, this film is very dark, brutal, and cold. The events which occur in them are quite shocking and depressing, however they are also bookended by some truly hilarious black comedy, and situational moments. Not many people agree with me, however I see Manchester by the Sea as a black comedy drama rather than just a drama, as almost all of the comedic moments in the film are perfect, timed well, and make light somehow, of the very sad slice of life mentality the film holds.
Lonergan hasn’t directed since 2011, the film being Margaret, but it’s like he hasn’t been out of action at all. The directing skills he has show in the film, each staging of the shots and actors positions are smooth and sublime, whilst the acting itself is fantastic. Affleck needs to be talked about solely as this is easily a career best for him. His lack of emotion as Joe is heart wrenching, especially when intercut with scenes from his past where you can still see the light in his eyes, the love in his voice, and his boyish charm. His present self is slow, uncaring, and saddening. You don’t need to be told what he’s gone through as you can just tell from looking at the way he acts. Special mention must be given to Lucas Hedges as well, as his performance as Patrick Chandler is a perfect example of a teenager forced to deal with adult situations. The character of Patrick is very brutal and rare itself, and seeing him interact with a much younger Joe in flashbacks provides further moments of the realisation of the tough lives the pair lead.
Moving away from the plot, the actual production and planning for this film must be given credit too due to the length of time spent trying to get it made, and overall development of such. The film was produced by Matt Damon, who originally was meant to star in it as well in Affleck’s role. However, this changed to having John Krasinski as main actor a bit later, before Casey Affleck was finally locked down to be the main star. With pre production of the film beginning all the way back in September of 2014, it’s brilliant to see how far the film went through development to finally air worldwide in 2017. Manchester by the Sea is also filmed in its namesake, Manchester by the Sea, which adds to the realism to the film, as the plot is quite natural and easily could happen in real life. Additionally, the music by Lesley Barber in this film is marvellous as well, being an eerie mix between ethereal and hallowing tones. It’s hard to discuss the film in detail without dropping too much about plot, so I urge anyone who is capable of withstanding a brutal 137 minute sitting to go and see this film. Currently nominated for 6 academy awards, with Affleck being the frontrunner for best actor, Manchester by the Sea deserves the praise it’s received, as it’s a both a film and example of the hardships in life.


Written by Hamish Vallance