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Manchester by the Sea ~ A Capsule Movie Review

manchester-by-the-sea

Manchester by the Sea ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Manchester by the Sea is a somber study in loss and tragedy, set in bleak New England winter with gray skies and a gray heart. Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck) is a working-class man with a foul-mouthed wife and three small children. He drinks more than is good for him and it’s while he’s under the influence of alcohol that he makes the terrible error in judgment from which he will never recover.

As the story moves back and forth in time, it takes us a while to know who is who and what is what. Lee Chandler’s brother, Joe (played, coincidentally, by an actor named Kyle Chandler, who was the unhappy husband of a lesbian in the movie Carol last year), develops a heart condition in early middle age and dies. He has one child, a sixteen-year-old son named Patrick. Joe’s wife, Patrick’s mother, is an unreliable, drunken shrew, so Joe leaves guardianship of Patrick to his brother Lee. Lee, now divorced, works as a janitor/handyman, living in one room, and he has plenty of problems of his own (including alcoholism), so he probably isn’t the best choice in the world to take care of a confused, sexually precocious sixteen-year-old boy. Patrick probably isn’t going to be happy in any circumstances, with his father dead and his mother “away.”

The Manchester of Manchester by the Sea is Manchester, Massachusetts, and not Manchester, England, as the title would seem to suggest. It’s a contemporary story, so that means there’s lots of foul language and naturalistic acting, with parts of the dialogue mumbled and unintelligible. The outdoor scenes are wintry scenes, with piles of dirty snow everywhere and cloud-covered vistas, so there’s nothing pretty to look at, even the sea. There’s nothing happy about this movie, including the way it looks, but it’s an engrossing, immersive movie; its two hours and sixteen minutes race by with barely a thought of how much longer it’s going to take, and when the end comes we were probably wishing for a little more.

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp   

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