An authentic and moving story, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea, is a portrait of a man so consumed by grief, going through the motions of a life, but no longer living. Avoiding any social contact and engaging in menial labor as the days turn into nights. When he goes to the local bar, if someone looks at him wrong he might get into a fistfight, but otherwise, he sulks in his beer. Eventually though, unexpected events force him to face himself and his long-suffering demons.
Lee Chandler (Carey Affleck) is a quiet, standoffish janitor/handyman for a building in Boston. One day, he gets a call from Manchester, the place he once called home. His older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), has died because of a long-term congenital heart problem. Lee is left to plan the funeral. He also takes it upon himself to break the news to Joe’s 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), with whom he once had a close relationship, before personal tragedy caused Lee to flee small town life in Manchester in favor of a life of solitude near Boston. It’s a major shock when Lee learns Joe has named him Patrick’s guardian. This means that Patrick will either have to uproot from a well-established life in Manchester, or Lee will have to return to Manchester–a possibility that both saddens him and fills him with rage.
We learn gradually, through flashbacks and current encounters, why coming back home is so difficult for Lee and staying might prove impossible. Things come to a head in a short, but wrenching scene – an encounter between Lee and his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) is raw, but manages to bring out a painful truth.
Casey Affleck has done good work before in, among others, Gone Baby Gone and Interstellar, but this is by far, his best performance. There’s a sadness in his eyes and a catch in his voice that permeates every scene. His moves slowly; almost as if his back hurts, like a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Lucas Hedges turns in a fine performance as hormonal teenager trying to cope with his father’s death. He has a good comic rapport with Affleck, that helps to balance the seriousness of the subject matter without diluting it. The always reliable Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler turn in memorable performances in limited screen time.
Emotionally powerful, Manchester By the Sea is a portrait of grief. Further, an examination of Lee, Randi and Patrick shows that no two people deal with grief in the same way. There’s no magic cure to fix a broken heart. This is some deep stuff and as both writer and director, Lonergan has done an admirable job of staying focused on the characters and their story, without drifting into soap opera territory.
Presented in the 1.85 aspect ratio, Lionsgate has provided a solid transfer. While a couple of interiors exhibited slight softness, sharpness is generally on point. Delineation is good and there are no apparent print flaws. The largely teal palette, with some orange tones thrown in, is solid. Blacks are dark and inky, while shadows are smooth. The image leaves nothing to complain about.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track serves this dialogue heavy film well. The soundscape is limited, but does show some immersiveness aboard the boat and during parties. Dialogue is clean and clear, while music cues are warm and lush. Atmospherics are clear and accurate. While this mix won’t blow anyone away, it suits the film.
English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Writer / Director Kenneth Lonergan and Content Producer Peter Ventrella: In this screen specific commentary, the two discuss the projects origins, story, character, locations, cast, performances, editing and more.
- Emotional Lives (HD, 16:00) Brief thoughts on the film from Lonergan, producers Matt Damon, Kevin J. Walsh, Chris Moore and Kimberly Steward, and actors Michelle Williams, Casey Affleck, Gretchen Mol, and Lucas Hedges.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:50) “Elise Calls” (1:58), “Children’s Funeral” (1:50) and “Chandler Charters” (2:02).
- DVD Copy.