In theaters this week from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan and Roadside Attractions comes the intense story of family’s living near “Manchester by the Sea.”
Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives a very simple and uncomplicated life. Working as a building maintenance man, he does his job and minds his own business. One day he receives a call telling him that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) is slipping away. Quickly driving to the hospital Lee is too late.
Now he must find nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and tell him the news. So begins the task of becoming reacquainted, planning a funeral and meeting with lawyers. It is meeting with the lawyer that Lee discovers that he is now the legal guardian of Patrick.
Immediately panic sets in as Lee has no idea what he is going to do and has no intention of living in his hometown. It doesn’t take long for the memories to come back when Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) comes to the funeral. It is Patrick who stands his ground explaining that his life, home, friends and father’s fishing boat are in Manchester.
Lee agrees to stay until all the issues have been settled giving them time to know one another. As the days pass it is clear that what happened in the past is still haunting Lee and Randi while Patrick comes to terms with growing up and following in his father’s footsteps.
Affleck as Lee is a walking ticking time bomb who can’t seem to find his way out of the past. Thinking that being away from home will keep him moving forward, it takes a hot minute of being home to set his teeth on edge. There isn’t much to say about this character because there are only fractions of true emotions displayed. I felt like the mystery of Lee was in those fractions but I don’t have that long of a life span to wait for him to spit it out.
Hedges as Patrick is a teen set in his ways (aren’t they all until they’re not?) and isn’t about to let Uncle Lee get in his way. I enjoyed Hedges performance and if I had one thing that bothered me it was that Patrick doesn’t really seem upset by his father’s passing and that was a tad disturbing. Patrick seemed more interested in ‘basement action’ with his harem of girls but that’s a teen right?
Williams as Randi has her role to play and she does just that. I actually feel like I’ve seen this character and performance from her before which is probably why I am not gushing all over with praise. I’m thinking “Shutter Island” meets “My Week with Marilyn” wrapped up into the character of Randi.
Other cast include: C.J. Wilson as George, Gretchen Mol as Elise, Tom Kemp as Stan Chandler, Chloe Dixon as Suzy Chandler, Ellie Teeves as Karen Chandler, Paul Meredith as Paul, Tate Donovan as the Hockey Coach, Christian Mallen as CJ, Oscar Wahlberg as Joel, Kara Hayward as Silvie and Josh Hamilton as Wes.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Manchester by the Sea” three tubs of popcorn out of five. The film clocks in at 137 minutes and I followed the story from the beginning but, quite honestly, by the 20 minute mark I had it figure out. Translated this means I had to sit and watch it all play out for another one hundred and seventeen minutes. Now that the math is done (and I HATE math) let me just say that like the emotions of Lee, I only had fractions of moments where I hoped things would get better.
It isn’t that “Manchester by the Sea” isn’t a good film as much as I’m a little baffled by all the hype. I honestly can’t see someone paying the price of a theatre ticket to sit through the film. I suppose that is also means there will be tons of award nominations which may peak the interest of some but not enough to warrant the cost of production. Film critics can be generous with their nods and fanfare about a film but have them buy a ticket to that same film and they might not be as generous with their opinions.
The later scene with Affleck and Williams is strong but it felt like too little too late by the time it plays itself out. The big winner here is the young actor Lucas Hedges playing a young man forced into decisions about his life because the adults around him are all screwed up! The ending of the film left me flat as everyone seems to portray ‘doing the right thing’ but I took it as everyone took the easy way out.
In the end — coming home is never easy.