"Manchester by the Sea" Movie Review

Updated on August 23, 2019
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea | Source

More often than not, grief is presented in movies as something to overcome, a painful thing family members join together to fight or that individuals successfully struggle to beat. But sometimes you can’t just make grief go away (nor should you, I suppose), and it’s that simple fact that drives Manchester by the Sea. It’s not a feel-good movie by any stretch, but you will most likely feel better after watching it. And not because writer/director Kenneth Lonergan manipulates you into feeling better but because he can tell a terribly moving story really well.

Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a jerk of a janitor going through his daily grind at an apartment complex in Boston. He plunges toilets, shovels snow, and puts up with (and dishes out) all kinds of aggravation daily.

When he gets a phone call that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died suddenly from a heart attack, Lee is forced to return to his titular hometown. What we assume is a reluctance to confront his brother’s death, though, is soon revealed to be a much bigger issue. Lee is given plenty of sideways glances when he returns, and we hear him referred to as The Lee Chandler. Eventually Lonergan lets us in on Lee's devastating backstory, and in one quick moment our hearts get summarily yanked out of our chests.

Adding to Lee’s long list of mounting issues is the fact that he is named guardian of Joe’s teenaged son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a kid who has an established life in town; he’s on the hockey team, fronts a band, and is juggling two girlfriends. Lee has no time or inclination to take over parenting duties, but that doesn’t prevent him from starting to form a bond with his nephew.

Manchester by the Sea, in Lonergan’s exquisite hands, takes on a distinctive Good Will Hunting vibe (Matt Damon is, in fact, a producer and was once attached to star), as the town and its people (and their wicked-good accents) take on a life of their own. Much of the film’s dialogue isn’t concerned with pushing the plot forward; simple conversations about a car’s heater or an awkward attempt at small talk serve only to present Lee’s world as a slice of life, and Lonergan (aided by cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes) beautifully shows us quick glimpses. Shots that would end up on the cutting room floor of other films (power lines zipping by overhead, quick flashbacks to Joe and young Patrick fishing) are included, giving the film an honest, true-life feel.

Affleck, largely relegated in the past to supporting work, finally has a movie to call his own, and he establishes himself instantly. It’s a brutal but unassuming performance, worthy of all the awards-season chatter it’s causing. And if he’s the front-runner for the Oscar, co-star Michelle Williams as his ex-wife Randi is even more of a shoo-in. Seriously, if Anne Hathaway can win for chewing up scenery and singing for three minutes in Les Miserables, surely Williams deserves some love for what may be the most wrenching scene in the film (much less all of 2016)—a conversation Randi has with Lee toward the end of the film. It will stick with you long after Manchester by the Sea is over.

The film itself is a masterpiece of the highest order, a life-affirming effort that is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. More than anything, though, it’s a simple ode to grief and loss and coping and making do. Sometimes you can’t solve everything life throws at you, but you still have to just keep on living.


5/5 stars

'Manchester by the Sea' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)