If you missed “Manchester by the Sea” when it made its initial rounds at theaters in December, you don’t have to be in the dark come awards time. The film’s been nominated for six Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture prize. Fortunately, you can now see it from the comfort of your easy chair if you know how to push the right buttons to pay and stream through Amazon.
“Manchester by the Sea” has everything it needs to make this one of the most heartfelt, moving, and memorable films of the year. Casey Affleck gives what may well be the performance of his career. (Brother Ben will be envious.) With the heavy burden of playing a lead who has a presence in almost every scene, Affleck delivers a performance that carries the depth, angst, and grace of one very complicated man.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has more anguish in his past than most people, and for several years, he’s been able to escape it. With the sudden death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), he’s brought back to a place he’d just soon forget. Manchester holds more sad memories than Lee can possibly process.
In the wee hours of the morning one bitter cold night, a serious of events culminated into unthinkable circumstances. Lee and his wife lost their three darling children in a house fire. Of course, they split up, both of them coping with their grief in their own ways.
Lee punishes himself by taking a job as a janitor and moving into a one-room basement in the apartment building where he works. He refuses help, becoming isolated and angry at the world and the circumstances that have brought him to this awful impasse.
Lee faces further and more intense challenges when he receives the surprising news that his brother Kyle’s will has made him guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee’s sixteen-year old nephew.
Lee is ill-equipped to take over as responsible party of the popular teenager’s life. His first reactions gravitate between fear and anger. He can’t imagine why his brother Kyle would put such a heavy burden on him, especially knowing how painful returning to Manchester would be.
The relationship between Lee and Patrick has its volatile moments. Patrick refuses to entertain the idea of moving to accommodate Lee’s inability to cope in Manchester; Lee refuses to give Patrick much room to negotiate his circumstances.
The journey they take together with all this upheaval will be one that neither is prepared to make. Everything has consequences, but essentially, life will go on, even in Manchester by the sea. Prepare to be moved.
Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.