Manchester by the Sea

This film might very well win an Best Actor oscar for Casey Affleck.

Manchester by the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan. Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Luke Hedges. Distributor: Roadside Attractions. Film length: 137 min. Release date: December 16, 2016. ****

This film might very well win an Best Actor Oscar for Casey Affleck as a young janitor with a temper and strong passions. His performance ranges from getting into adolescent bar fights to suffering severe grief over several substantial losses and finally providing  paternal caring for a nephew who falls under his wing when his father dies. On the negative side, the film is overly long by at least an hour because of extraneous plot devices that tend to lead to confusion.

However, it shines with spectacular dialogue among the principal characters, includes gorgeous North Shore Massachusetts maritime scenery, and some really fine directing from Ken Lonergan. The plot continues to pull you in to care about the outcome for the lead actors. There is also a strong sub-theme about life gone out of control via alcohol and drugs.

The overly long screenplay might have easily deleted one of the two girlfriends of high school-aged Luke Hedges. One would have been enough to show how serious Casey Affleck was about care-taking. Another subplot that I found seriously overlong was one involving an unexplained fire started through Casey Affleck’s negligence. His three children died in the fire, his wife suffered terribly and their home burned down. I found this subplot very unclear, particularly in terms of how it affected the marriage and also, in a somewhat maudlin vein, because it immediately followed the death of Casey Affleck’s brother (which was a carefully constructed movie theme).

Generally speaking, I do recommend this as a fine film with a tragic plot welded to good repartee and wisdom. Luke Hedges should also be up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the nephew of the film.

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Author: Carolyn Gregory

Carolyn Gregory is a reviewer and poet who lives in Boston, MA.

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