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Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth LonerganUSA136 minutes201514AColourEnglish

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Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler star in this emotionally overwhelming and critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), about a reclusive handyman who must face his painful past when he returns to his Massachusetts hometown after the sudden death of his beloved older brother.

With only his third feature in 16 years, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) takes us through a familiar milieu in Manchester by the Sea, but does so in wholly unfamiliar ways.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck, in a career-defining performance), is the resident handyman for a small apartment complex in a Boston suburb. He spends his days shovelling snow, fixing leaks, and doing his best to ignore the tenants' small talk. He spends his evenings either alone in his basement apartment or nursing a beer at his local, where he'll pick a fight with anyone who throws a glance his way. Yet somehow we know that buried beneath this sadness is another life.

When he receives the news that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died of a congenital heart condition and that, to his unpleasant surprise, he's been appointed legal guardian of Joe's teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee returns to his nearby seaside hometown, a place of both cherished and painful memories. Despite the sudden loss of his father, and in stark contrast to his uncle, Patrick is full of life. A popular student, he juggles hockey, band practice, and two girlfriends. As this mismatched pair stumbles through the mundane details of estate planning and the awkward strain of adolescence, Lee is forced to confront his past, revealed seamlessly through flashbacks, and the realities of his present.

Lonergan's genius is rooted not in the extraordinary, but the ordinary. A master of detail, he uses his character's daily surroundings and routines to create a beautifully textured reality. He turns the loose narrative structure into one of his film's greatest strengths: rather than depend on an obvious narrative arc or dramatic set pieces, he draws out the emotion of his text subtly and steadily. In Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has created a world so messy that it can only be described as wonderfully human.

KERRI CRADDOCK

USAFamilyRelationshipsIllness + DeathDrama