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Film review: Manchester by the Sea

Film & TV

This multi-Oscar-nominated film sees a sleepy New England town awash with snow and grief, both past and present.

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Marking the return of writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) to the big screen, Manchester by the Sea is a moody and intense relationship drama starring Casey Affleck as downtrodden janitor Lee Chandler, who swings precariously between trial and tribulation.

Having been divorced by his wife Randi (superbly played by Michelle Williams) after the death of their three children in a fire, Chandler drifts aimlessly from blocked pipes to bar fights as the memories of his past engulf him. When elder brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies of a heart attack, he is forced to finally confront grief head-on as the (surprise) guardian of his nephew.

Struggling to come to terms with yet another loss, Chandler finds that his charge, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), is more interested in fornication than unification and as this odd couple drift further apart, his only recourse is as it always has been – booze.

This lit fuse of a film continues to smoulder throughout, leaving the audience wondering just where and when the explosion will be.

Manchester by the Sea is far from your average portrayal of family disintegration; it is a film full of unfulfilled hope, good intentions gone sour and tragedies that strike at the core of the dynamic.

Affleck’s introverted and almost adolescent role is pitted wonderfully against Hedge’s indomitable and carefree spirit, creating a volcano of dramaturgy that sweeps all else before it.

With an ending which might well be a beginning, Manchester by the Sea defrosts and exposes male relationships while heating up the longest of winter nights with a fire that is never fully extinguished.

Manchester by the Sea has been nominated for a total of six Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best actor (Affleck), best supporting actor (Hedges) and best supporting actress (Williams).

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