Manchester by the Sea

My favourite film of 2016 is relatively low key, to be honest. Manchester by the Sea tells the story of an uncle (played by Casey Affleck) who learns that his brother who has passed away has made him the sole guardian of his nephew (played Lucas Hedges). This forces Affleck to return to the town where he was born and raised, as he attempts to come to terms with the terrible events that transpire there and the life and people he lost.

Let’s not beat around the bush – I can’t recall any film where the performance of a single actor has left me as affected. In my humble opinion, Casey Affleck’s role as Lee Chandler is simply put, one of the best on-screen performances that I have had the privilege of experiencing. My appreciation for the authenticity by which Affleck portrays the extremely traumatising experiences of his emotionally blunted character is something that is difficult to put into words, but let me have bash at it anyways.

It's the film's smaller moments that shine the brightest.

Although Affleck delivers poignant moments during the film’s more emotionally laden scenes, It’s not only in the moments of sheer heartache and dread that Affleck’s portrayal of Chandler shines. Some of the film’s best moments come from Affleck’s masterfully sincere depiction of his broken characters’ reaction to every day life in everyday situations. Due to Affleck’s highly nuanced and considered performance, the impact of Chandler’s tragic past becomes apparent in every word, every facial expression that he utters. Throughout the film, Chandler is desperately trying to keep his dangerously thin emotional veneer from cracking in order to stay strong for those who need him. Affleck does an exceptional job at showcasing the effort and toll that this takes on his character and there’s a sincerity and realism here that attests of an acting capacity way beyond Affleck’s years.

"Due to Affleck’s highly nuanced and considered performance, the impact of Chandler’s tragic past becomes apparent in every word, every facial expression that he utters."

But there’s more to Manchester by the Sea than Casey Affleck’s performance itself. Kenneth Lonergan does a spectacular job at getting sincere and honest moments out of the entirety of this cast, resulting in a film where the characters feel painfully familiar and real. Special nod to Michelle Williams as Affleck’s former wife and Lucas Hedges as Affleck’s nephew. The film’s engrossing sense of familiarity is further amplified by a noticeably simple filming style and minimalist score. All of these elements work together to create an understated and highly authentic cinematic experience.

There’s a lot more I can say about this masterpiece of a film, but at the end of the day, all you really need to know is that this is a film that everyone needs to see. Whether you’re a fan of intensely moving dramas or not, this is the type of film that is most likely to give you a new sense of appreciation for the craft of acting and film making in general. And even if you’ve been fortunate enough not to yet have experienced a similar degree of heartache as the film’s damaged protagonist, watching this film will give you a revealing an authentic glimpse into the pain that comes with the most sour of lemons life can possibly throw at you. 

Highlight: When Affleck is confronted with the reality of what happened to his children. 


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