Lee Chandler (Casey Afflick) is a man looking to punish himself in the opening segments of the film. He is living in a sparsely furnished basement apartment working as a janitor for a 6 complex apartment unit. Chandler goes to the units when summoned to work on pluming do some painting and other minor repairs. He does not have the best bedside manner generating complaints from the tenants to his boss. When not working inside the complex he's outside shoveling snow or at a local bar drinking alone picking fights with multiple people, expecting to loose and welcoming the beatings.
Chandler is ripped from his normal routine when he receives a phone call bearing tragic news about his brother Joe (Kyle Chander) forces Lee to drop everything and head to Manchester to see about his brother affairs and to his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Once back in Manchester the towns folk begin to whisper that THE Lee Chandler is back in town and through flashbacks we learn about his married life with his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) his past close relationship with his nephew and brother and the strained one with his sister in law Elise (Gretchen Mol). A central item to the family is the fishing boat that Joe ran with his partner circling Manchester harbour more for fun than as a business endeavour.
Director Kenneth Lonergan presents a somber piece who's initial shot of sorrow cannot compare to the events of the past that have put Lee into a catatonic state as he shuffles though his daily activities. The narrative does have comedic moments mainly in the exchanges between Lee and Patrick as the latter does not want the former to mess up his setup locally. The story includes an unexpected sentiment towards Lee from his ex-wife Randi that is not expected from a mother to the author of her tragic loss.
Casey Afflick produces his best performance in a number of years as Lee Chandler. He is so paralyzed from his horrific past that he barely reacts to the news of his brother Kyle. He is cold and calculation as he handles his brother's affairs and the same when dealing with his nephew and the future of the boat. Lucas Hedges is strong as Lee's nephew Patrick for the most part he takes the events of his father in stride but has one pivotal scene as he rummages through the freezer and the reality of his Dad's passing hits him head on.
Quiet, somber, remorseful yet fulfilling. Manchester by the Sea is a picture that examines dark issues and emotions but gives hope that one will eventually all be it slowly emerge on the other side. The shooting style highlights a watercolour palate that is appropriate for the mood and location of the principal action in the production. The main and supporting cast do not make a wrong step with the material. Longran's long awaited third feature delivers strong characters dealing with difficult topics as one would expect from authentic New Englanders.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Manchester by The Sea | Kenneth Lonergan | U.S.A. | 2016 | 137 Minutes.
Tags; Boston, Janitor/Handyman, Congestive Heart Failure, Fire, Suicide Attempt, Boating, Fishing, Funeral.