Posted Oct 12 2016

LFF 2016 - Manchester By The Sea

Dir: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges

Although highly acclaimed as a writer, Kenneth Lonergan has had a tough time as a filmmaker, with a history of troubled productions resulting in two acclaimed movies that hardly anyone ever saw. His third outing with megaphone has been touted since its debut back at Sundance at the start of the year, as the one to elevate him out of the arthouse ghetto. And it’s good. It’s just not all that good.

Manchester By The Sea is a sad tale of bereavement and adjustment that finds quietly spoken (when isn’t he?) Affleck the junior as Lee, a man forced to try and up his game, rework his life and take charge of his teenage nephew (an excellent Hedges) when Lee’s brother dies. It sees Affleck relocate back to his titular Massachusetts hometown. Haunted by events from his past – drip-fed by flashback – he finds himself coming up short at the time when he really needs to rise to the occasion.

A tale of family, grief and personal history, Lonergan’s film is at times as absorbing as the bleak landscape it catches in winter. But, like its central character, it is ultimately lacking. As good as Affleck is here, his character Lee remains rigid throughout, progressing nowhere of significance from first scene to last. Ultimately, his personal malaise consumes and defines the film. Kyle Chandler – as the dead father/brother – gives the strongest performance here, whilst Michelle Williams is both miscast and underused.

There’s been a lot of Awards talk hovering around Manchester all year. But whilst there is a fair amount to like here, it is ultimately a slight piece, and a little bit disappointing. 


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