Kenneth Lonergan tackles loss, depression, and death in this Oscar contender
Taking such a personal and intricate concept as death, it needs to be opened and surgically examined from every angle while constructing characters that feel real. Having such a movie bring in humor moments is such a big risk, and therefore, needs to be done meticulously for the film to work. Fortunately, Manchester By The Sea takes its time telling a heartbreakingly bittersweet story that is elevated by Kenneth Lonergan’s script as well as his directing.
After the death of his brother Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has no idea about what to do. Getting custody of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s son, Lee is forced to try to move on from his terrible past. Although, he never did, here is a chance at which he can finally redeem himself and try to piece his life back together again.
This is the story of death, loss, depression, and family relations and what Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret) is able to explore is astounding. It starts off as a character study of Lee himself before morphing into a movie about relationships. Lonergan gives a subtle look into the lives of these people. It feels like you’re peeking through somebody’s window. Even with scenes which feel almost too personal for an audience, Lonergan is able to make it feel genuine.
A big part of the success of Manchester By The Sea is Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams’s terrific and real performances. Much of that personal affection is the dialogue and performances that Lonergan was able to get out of them. Affleck’s character is hard to love at first but having that glimpse into his past is what ultimately brings the audience to emotionally connect with him. His performance is subtle and captures the masculinity that men fight against. His behaviors are often more damaging than not making one wonder why Lee never talks about his feelings.
Lonergan doesn’t shy away from this issue. The relationship between characters is another aspect that Manchester By The Sea portrays quite exquisitely. Lee’s relationship with his nephew is multidimensional, yet they don’t talk to each other about what they’re going through. Mimicking society’s expectation on men is shown to have quite harmful effects on men.
While a movie tackling heavy themes like depression and loss, Manchester By The Sea still chooses to incorporate humor. Adding in jokes in a film like this can certainly take something dramatic and turn it into a parody. However, it is perfectly weaved in its character moments and in a rare occasion making those very moments that much more human.
As the movie comes to a close, the audience has a clear understanding of every theme the movie has brought up. Lonergan doesn’t provide many answers instead he leaves it to his audience as he should. His exploration is flawless and his characterization down to the finest details. With information as perfectly executed as the ones shown on screen, you should know enough about these people to get where they are coming from and how they will live their lives in the future.
Just like Moonlight, the events feel real, and the characters are genuine. It’s almost hard to distinguish between watching an event that takes place as it’s happening or watching something that was directed and scripted. Some would say that it’s dangerous, but for a film that perfectly blurs its line, it’s impossible to hate, and it only proves how competently made a film can be.