By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★★☆

Casey Affleck shines in this heartfelt tale of tragedy that is profoundly upsetting, but never too much. A truly human story. Manchester by the Sea is exquisite.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is forced to leave his life as a handyman in Boston after his brother dies and his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) is left without a father. After taking on the job, Lee has difficulties blending in to the seaside town that gave him so much grief in the past.

Manchester is wonderful storytelling. Director Kenneth Lonergan gradually reveals Lee’s tragic story through a series of random flashbacks, and it is seriously upsetting, bring the tissues. The film has been masterfully edited and its time jumps in narrative serve as a great element of surprise and character development for Lee.

This is the role that Affleck was born to play. Lee is beyond damaged and has a massive chip on his shoulder, but still retains a certain air of politeness and warmth. It’s more than obvious that Affleck has gone deep inside of himself for this role.

However, equally brilliant is Lucas Hedges, who captures grieving teenager Patrick with great ease. It’s the subtle balance of maturity from loss and teenage angst that make Patrick such a relatable character. With this and two Wes Anderson films under his belt, I’m really looking forward to see him in the future. Michelle Williams, who plays Lee’s ex-wife Randi, also leaves a mark, however I’m not quite sure how she was nominated for an Oscar. She’s only in a few scenes.

All three mentioned actors have been nominated for Oscars this year, and Casey Affleck has already won the Golden Globe. Lucky for him considering that Matt Damon, who also had a hand in writing, was originally in line for the job. Not sure how the sex allegations will work in Affleck’s favour though…

Other Oscar nominations include Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It’s going to be a tight finish with competitors like La La Land and Moonlight, but Manchester by the Sea really does deserve some consideration for Best Original Screenplay. It’s very well written.

Though tackling some really heavy themes, this film doesn’t guilt you out for the full two and a half hours. For every poignant moment there is a moment of relief and occasional comedy. This film could have been an epic tragedy, especially with the brutal twist in Lee’s past halfway through, but Lonergan has kept a decent balance here. The cinematography is cold and deeply personal, everything is framed around these wonderful characters. They are the story.

Go and see this film, but bring a box of tissues. The relationship and on screen chemistry between Affleck and Hedges is an absolute pleasure to watch. They would be my personal picks for every acting award this season.

Photo: Fandango

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