An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father passes away.
Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a custodian who has to travel back to his home town after his brother dies. The hope of many is that Lee will step up to the task of adopting Patrick, despite Lee's tragic past and troubled life.
Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan directs this beautifully acted and deeply moving story of a man overcoming past troubles to rise to the task of caring for his teenage nephew. Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) plays Lee flawlessly. He's closed off, deeply scarred and afraid of caring for others because of his painful past. This will be the film that Casey Affleck gets his first Oscar nomination for and it's fully deserved. It's hard to imagine many others in this role, Affleck stands stone faced as other's around him weep for the death of his brother, his performance is a master class in understated emotion but expressive anger when needed.
Lucas Hedges (The Zero Theorem) plays Patrick and almost steals the entire film; he's witty, sarcastic but easy to empathise with as his loss slowly starts to affect him despite his best efforts to put on a brave face. The supporting performances are also all excellent, Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) should definitely also be considered for a nomination, her role is small but significant and her performance is a standout.
Manchester by the Sea is a deeply moving film but there's also a surprising amount of very effective humour. Lonergan relishes in the awkward silences between people, the way in which men struggle to communicate with one another and delights in the humour of these uncomfortable moments. The dialogue itself is a thing of beauty, conversations feel natural, not everything is about progressing story but about informing character. After the perfect 135 minute run time, you feel like you've spent a matter of weeks with these characters because Lonergan develops them deeply and allows you to sit in on their most private moments.
Much of Manchester by the Sea is shown through the prism of flashbacks, and it's in these scenes where we learn all there is to know about Lee and his current state. He was once a happy man but certain events have understandably transformed him into the closed off and sometimes violent character we now see. These scenes are utterly heartbreaking but it's the repercussions of those scenes in the present that give them definite effect.
The accents are perfect, the cold setting of Manchester, New Hampshire is fitting and the location definitely plays a major character in the story. Lee has moved away from his home town as a way of forgetting his past and moving on, but he's dragged there due to his brother's passing and fights hard to refrain from committing to anything that will make him remember his previous life.
Manchester by the Sea is an absolute masterpiece, there wasn't a single moment that was wasted and I am extremely eager to sit through it again. I'm giving the movie a 10/10.