“Manchester by the Sea” marks the third directing effort by Kenneth Lonergan over a 16-year span. In that time, he’s made two other acclaimed movies, “You Can Count on Me” (2000) and “Margaret
” (2011), but with his latest he’s finally made a potential mainstream crossover.
Thanks to Amazon Studios’ $10 million purchase of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, a strong marketing and award-season push is underway that far exceeds what Lonergan’s previous work had.
What’s all the fuss about? Simply put, the movie is really, really good.
Set in the Massachusetts town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, the intimate story of an uncle (Casey Affleck) who becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after his father (Kyle Chandler) dies isn’t told with any camera tricks or dazzling effects. Instead it’s the acting that really shines front and center. Particularly Affleck.
Ben’s lesser-known brother, Casey has quietly built up a strong filmography to a point now where he’s showcasing a talent that far surpasses Ben.
A surefire Oscar nominee (and perhaps winner), Affleck’s portrayal of Lee Chandler is extremely intimate, dark, but thanks to Lonergan’s writing, it also has necessary levity at times.
And the best thing about the movie is that Lonergan isn’t in a rush to tell us anything. He lets the audience sink into the Lee character and his surroundings to find a man who has given up on life (and there’s an understandable reason for that, but we won’t give it away) and though the logical breakthrough would be his new connection with his nephew, Patrick, Lonergan doesn’t go down that well-travelled path.
Lee’s wounds are too deep to suddenly become happy about his life.
With the help of flashbacks to when Patrick was younger and Lee’s brother, Joe, was still around, we get an understanding of who Lee once was. And then there’s his relationship with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams).
In a heartbreaking scene in which the two talk for the first time in years, we once more see the pain Lee carries and why he can’t let go of the past. It’s all possible thanks to the incredible talents of both Affleck and Williams.
Lonergan (who should also get an Oscar nomination for directing and writing) takes a lot of time between making movies, which has as much to do with finances as creating stories. But when everything lines up and he delivers a movie, it’s done with an intent and purpose that few can match.
“Manchester by the Sea” opens in theatres on Friday.
NOW WATCH: The new ‘Kong: Skull Island’ trailer looks incredible — and it’s setting up a showdown with Godzilla
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.