Manchester by the Sea

After his older brother passes away, Lee Chandler is forced to return home to care for his 16-year-old nephew. There he is compelled to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his family and the community where he was born and raised.


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  • ★★★★★ review by DirkH on Letterboxd

    Ever had a lump stuck in your throat for 2 hours?

    Ever held in a scream you wanted to scream but couldn't because you were afraid you couldn't stop?

    Ever seen an actor not acting, not performing, just being?

    Ever seen a director do his utmost to tear out your soul, stomp on it only to rebuild it in the most bitter sweet way imaginable?

    Ever lost someone, wanting them back so badly, living becomes a chore?

    Ever grieved?

    Ever felt so much love and responsibility it becomes unbearable?

    Manchester by the Sea shows us a life, a real life, in all its ugly beauty. It uses the power only the most exemplary pieces of art possess, the power to confront, to resonate and to emote and it does so with restraint and respect.

    To me, the utter humanity of it all makes this film a singular masterpiece. I allowed its weight to wash over me, to take in the unbelievable performances only to end up feeling grateful to have been part of this gut wrenching glimpse into a tortured soul.

    Allow this film in and you'll have an extraordinarily humbling experience.

  • ★★★★½ review by Jake Kwiatkowski on Letterboxd

    my nama jef

  • ★★★★½ review by Lucy on Letterboxd

    in this movie lucas hedges is dating the girl who stabbed him in the back with lefty scissors in moonrise kingdom

  • ★★★★★ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd


    After Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan's third feature film, the world stopped spinning. Of course, such an inherently hyperbolic statement comes from a place of personal connection, the typical gushing praise of having just encountered an "experience", but truly, its root is in the world which was painted before me. It seemed no different initially: seagulls swooping through the harsh winter winds, snow cascading onto the salted pavement, operatic groups of tenors and baritones providing an extraordinary backdrop for the ordinary. Such an environment exists, and it is still, uneventful, misshapen in its fractured neighborhoods and streets. It is also familiar. Familiar to people who wander a snowy path in search of late-night groceries. Familiar to people who forget where the car was parked. Familiar to people who enter a hospital in search of answers. Familiar to people who suddenly feel an irrepressible void in their hearts; a life lost. A soul wiped from time's ticking clock.

    When Manchester by the Sea begins, even within the first few moments, its truth is evident. It's all there in Lonergan's images; crisp and clear - unafraid to look away from anything and anyone - but also distant. Casey Affleck's Lee soon appears on a boat yet I do not see an actor or an "Oscar-Worthy" performance being weaved. Instead I witness a person. Gentle and caring. Playful and vital. If anything, the end credits were the greatest shock to my system, as it sent a rush of remembrance of reality, a realization told through rising theater lights and the scattering of bodies towards various exit signs. From frame one to the final fade, I was positively engrossed. Hell, even *that's* an understatement, but alas, words aren't really doing the trick here.

    It's easy to praise Lonergan's elegant structure, his quick-wittedness, his languid ambitions, but it's hard to tackle exactly how the comedy and the precise formal elements perfectly lower its tragic eruptions into a fully-realized cinematic purgatory. This is a movie where we go to be cleansed, to rid ourselves of baggage by empathizing with faces not unlike our own, and where it takes us is unfathomable. If humor brings joy, then grief brings lamentation, and Lonergan sees the world as a dual-sided coin, day to day. Incidents of awkwardness and annoyance do not divert the pain of sorrow - a particular feeling so sad its presence chills the heart to an icy solid - but they coexist for the sake of normalcy, an idea based around the common phrase "life goes on." in an attempt to capture the sly remove of this cruel place and morph it into something hopeful.

    But Lonergan doesn't stop there. Manchester by the Sea is not only an ode to the shambling, messy specifics of a life enclosed in anguish, but also a definitive statement on the affliction of non-recovery. Grief has frequently been seen as consolable in Hollywood cinema, a valley in which we must cross to reach a better day, but Lee manifests as an endless field of barren frustrations and perpetual spouts of frail suffering. You do not rise above the past; it defines your every step and turn. Casey Affleck - in one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema - allows himself to become defined by the past of his character, and the result is utterly soul-crushing; an incarnation of successful deterioration, a body beaten by trauma.

    To say more would be a great disservice to the intended revelations and the potency found in them, but each aspect in production and design in front/behind the camera are bursting with humility for its subject and its populace of characters. The entire supporting cast - Michelle Williams (in a *showstopping* role), Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler etc. - are as generous and vulnerable as you'll see in any movie. Its moments of musicality leap into your veins. Every frame is a shivering, bitter window to a reality swept into heartache, and it's real. Every man, woman, child has a story. This is the story of one of them: an individual waking up in a nightmare and going to sleep lost and alone, tired and despondent. This is one of the most gut-wrenching of all films. It's also sweet, angry, funny, mournful, and rejected. It is a great work of art, a song set to the tune of the sea; melodic, rapid, frigid, everlasting. And while it may be unsparing, its beauty rings true.

  • ★★★★½ review by Todd Gaines on Letterboxd

    We all grieve, yet we grieve in many different ways. A death can make a family stronger, or destroy it. Some people never get over a loss. Others, find a positive out of a negative, and use their experience to educate and help others. I'm envious of those who've never experienced a significant loss. That's probably why it's not the end of the world for me when a celebrity dies. It's okay if you get upset when a famous person passes. I've been upset by celeb death, but it's nothing like losing someone you love more than anything. That's why I loathe the month of March. This March, it's the 10 year anniversary and the 4 year anniversary of the two losses that forever changed me as a person. Without going into any personal details, the 1st loss numbly shook me like a rag doll, and the 2nd loss, to be completely honest with you, killed a part of me, a part I will never completely get over or get back. But, I'm still here. I'm still living. I'm a survivor. Death is the easy part. It's the ones left living, who sometimes feel more dead, than the actual people buried six feet under. My last sentence, hell this entire opening paragraph, could easily be some of the main themes explored in Manchester by the Sea.

    I admire the clumsy awkwardness of Manchester by the Sea. The stretcher not going smoothly into the ambulance, the look on the faces of people who don't know exactly what to say, the forgetfulness of where you parked your car, the safety still being left on the gun when you really want to pull the trigger, your clothes not coming off easily when you're ready to slide and the uncomfortable phone calls. Like death, life ain't all pretty and perfect. 

    Without a doubt, the evolving relationship between Casey Affleck's Uncle Lee and Lucas Hedges' Patrick is the heart and soul of the movie. The emotional attachment you feel for the characters, makes me applaud their acting abilities. Is it strong direction and writing from director / writer, Kenneth Lonergan, or natural God given talent from the actors? It's probably a combination of both. 

    Lesley Barber's musical score and Jody Lee Lipes' cinematography both deserve praise as well. Ms Barber's score isn't used a lot, but it's fitting mood music. Mr Lipes' eye for the camera lens is remarkable. He captures the area around Manchester and especially the sea, like Brody captures a shark. 

    The use of the flashback is highly helpful to the narrative. A lot of movies get lost with flashback sequences, but the flashback scenes aren't confusing and don't hurt the flow of the film. The flashbacks are vital to understanding Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams' relationship. 

    Manchester by the Sea is simply a helluva film with a ton of raw emotions.

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