Manchester by the Sea (2016) review

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Dir: Kenneth Lonergan

Rating: 4.5/5

A story that encompasses grief in an ‘all too real’ feeling film that goes through all the different stages heartbreak magnificintly.


I wasn’t planning on writing a review for this film, solely because I really just couldn’t think of what I wanted to say. This film was so real, so relatable, and so heartbreaking. A beautiful film that portrays grief in such a painfully accurate form.

I went into this expecting it to be a little longer than necessary after seeing it was 2h 17m, and with previous films of the same genre and subject matter, they can often stray into that longer than needed feeling once you get through the second and into the third act. Manchester by the Sea used its length perfectally, filling each scene with enough emotion, suspense, or heart that it needed to keep the audience curious. It kept the viewer guessing, over and over again, about what truly happened to Lee that left him in his current state. You also see what kind of state he really is, slowly through the story as it reveals more about his past, as well as how broken it has lead him to in the current days. Juggling the perfect amount of humour through his nephew’s character, Patrick, and heartbreak through glimpses into his past.

First off with the acting, Lucas Hedges gave a fantastic performance as Patrick, and I really haven’t seen enough praise for him. His character was a quirky, sometimes ignorant character trying to manage his life after his father’s death, but in many scenes Lucas showed his talent. A little spoiler warning here, but Patrick’s panic attack after seeing the frozen chicken was incredibly heartbreaking, “I don’t like the though of him in the freezer” destroyed me, and you finally get to see this grief stricken teen deal with all these emotions that he had been keeping in. A moment of change in the film for both Patrick and Lee. This scene shone through as one of my favourites. All the actors in this film had to play such a versatile role with such a variety of emotions, and they all played them realistically enough that this story would resonate so well with so many people who watched this. Affleck and Hedges’ acting played together seamlessly and they really did suit eachother’s style, adding even more to the realistic feeling of the film.

The cinematography and editing were both great. They worked together perfectally creating the setting of Manchester, making it feel like home for patrick, and a sort of “lost home” for Lee, as it seems he feels like an intruder on a place he used to be so comfortable in, that is now plagued by grief.

My one negative is the use of Michelle Williams in the film. She could have played a character with much more screentime, and could have carried it well. The scenes she was in were strong, and well acted scenes, but they were either few and far between quick scenes, or one long scene that I wish was not as long as it was, but rather the topic of their long conversation when they meet in the street be split up into seperate scenes. They had a strong actor on board with her, but she just did not have the time on screen that she deserved.

It is no doubt that this film protrays immense grief accurately and will definitely cause some heartbreak. It also gave me some of my favourite scenes of a 2016 film. I was holding off not mentionning this scene but I just couldn’t (spoiler warning) the moment when Lee takes the gun off the officer’s belt and attempts to shoot himself was shocking, heart wrenching, and ovewhelmingly upsetting. I will never forget this moment, a rare time in a film that I will audibly, loudly gasp. Thinking about it now gives me the chills.

Overall, an incredible film to start off 2017 with, and I am glad I got to the theater in time to see it. I don’t think this film can have the same affect that it does watching it not on a big screen. Go see this, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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