About 90 minutes into the emotionally draining “Manchester by the Sea,” I was pleased when Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller) showed up on screen. This gave me a much needed chuckle.
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a broken man. He lives in solitude, he’s rude to tenants (he’s a janitor), and he’s inept to women’s pickup attempts. Why? We learn the answer as Lee travels to Manchester, MA for his brother’s funeral, and it’s devastating.
Lee then must confront his own demons and come to terms with his brother’s death. However, he also needs to decide whether or not to take guardianship of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), his nephew.
“Manchester by the Sea” is a powerful, quiet film with great performances and authenticity. The first 45 minutes are realistic, as we watch Lee go through the legal process of declaring his brother dead. He has to fill out paperwork, sell his brother’s possessions, make funeral arrangements, and finally tell Patrick what happened.
Patrick’s reaction hit close to home for me, as he’s sad one moment, but then asks for pizza and to hang out with his friends. It’s his own way of mourning, while Lee’s is eating pizza alone in his bedroom. Their relationship is the strongest part of “Manchester by the Sea.”
Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges both deliver career-defining performances as Lee and Patrick. Their banter and arguments feel genuine, combining drama with a small dose of much-needed humor. Michelle Williams has a brief role as Lee’s ex-wife, Randi. She’s only on screen for 10 minutes, but it’s enough to remind us she’s one of the best working actresses today.
“Manchester by the Sea” is a heavy film about grief. It’s also a sensitive and sincere film about the subject, given recent films about grief haven’t been (thinking of “Collateral Beauty”).