Manchester by the Sea

Poster for Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Take This Waltz) and Kyle Chandler (Carol) star in this critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan about a reclusive handyman whose life is upended after the sudden death of his beloved older brother.

Lee Chandler (Affleck, in a career-defining performance) is the resident handyman for a small apartment complex in a Boston suburb. He spends his days shovelling snow, fixing leaks, and doing his best to ignore the tenants’ small talk. He spends his evenings either alone in his basement apartment or nursing a beer at his local, where he will pick a fight with anyone who throws a glance his way. Yet somehow we know that buried beneath this sadness is another life.

When he receives the news that his older brother Joe (Chandler) has died of a congenital heart condition and that, to his unpleasant surprise, he has been appointed legal guardian of Joe’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom), Lee returns to his nearby seaside hometown, a place of both cherished and painful memories. Despite the sudden loss of his father and in stark contrast to his uncle, Patrick is full of life. A popular student, he juggles hockey, band practice and two girlfriends. As this mismatched pair stumbles through the mundane details of estate planning and the awkward strain of adolescence, Lee is forced to confront his past, revealed seamlessly through flashbacks and the realities of his present.

Lonergan’s genius is rooted not in the extraordinary but the ordinary. A master of detail, he uses his character’s daily surroundings and routines to create a beautifully textured reality. He turns the loose narrative structure into one of his film’s greatest strengths: rather than depend on an obvious narrative arc or dramatic set pieces, he draws out the emotion of his text subtly and steadily. In Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has created a world so messy that it can only be described as wonderfully human.

“The persistence of grief and the hope of redemption are themes as timeless as dramaturgy itself, but rarely do they summon forth the kind of extraordinary swirl of love, anger, tenderness and brittle humor that is Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama about how a death in the family forces a small-town New Englander to confront a past tragedy anew.” (Justin Chang, Variety)

“Manchester by the Sea is a film of surpassing beauty and heart. Even at its most melancholy depths, it brims with candid, earnest, indefatigable life.” (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)

“See this film as soon as you can, preferably with someone you love. Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature as a writer-director is a drama of surpassing beauty, and Casey Affleck’s portrayal of the janitor, Lee Chandler, is stripped-back perfection—understated, unaffected, yet stunning in depth and resonance.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal)