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This was reviewed at the Cambridge Film Festival, but it’s up for some Oscars now…
Over the years we have seen Casey Affleck develop from Ben Affleck’s goofy little Brother to a brooding and brilliant screen presence and I can honestly say that right now I consider Ben to be the lesser Affleck! It was only a matter of time until he worked with Kenneth Lonergan as he specialises in brooding and sombre and it has resulted in his most powerful performance to date. An oscar nomination is surely on the horizon after what he brought to the table here.
Lonergan is best known for his success as a screenwriter for such polar opposite movies as the Robert De Niro/Billy Crystal vehicle “Analyse This” and Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” however as a Director he is somewhat of an indie legend. His debut “You Can Count on Me” back in 2001 showed us an understated masterpiece about family relationships and the fragility of taking it for granted. He then followed this 10 years later with “Margaret” which was an emotional character study about life going on after sudden tragedy. Luckily we only had to wait another 5 years for his third feature “Manchester by the Sea” and what we have here is an understated masterpiece about family relationships, the fragility of taking it for granted, and a deeply moving character study about how life goes on after extreme and devastating tragedy.
I won’t beat around the bush, I absolutely adored this movie! It is shot with a sombre, steady, confident hand and is constructed so expertly that it can literally have you laughing one second and crying the next. The story is so powerful and I believe you should try to go into this knowing as little about the narrative as possible. The way Casey Affleck’s character Lee is revealed to us, and the bigger picture becomes clearer, is exponentially heartbreaking and a huge part about why this film works so well.
The supporting cast are uniformly fantastic. Michelle Williams plays Lee’s ex-wife and is a revelation! She has always been a great talent in my opinion and this just goes further to prove that point. It will be interesting to see her go into more leading roles in the future as she obviously has the chops. Kyle Chandler is reliable as always as Lee’s Brother Joe and C.J. Wilson brings in a tender and loyal performance as Joe’s best friend and business partner but the real standout is Lucas Hedges as Joe’s Son and Lee’s Nephew Patrick. So many scenes revolve around Lee and Patrick going toe-to-toe and they are never anything less than exhilarating. I completely believed their relationship, their bond, their resentment, their love, and it is something that so easily could not have worked. It is testament to the actors, and the screenplay and the direction that this all comes together so effectively.
I have already gone on too long so I will begin to wrap this up. It is a story that has been done before yet due to Lonergan’s masterfully subtle writing it is without cliche and it’s themes resonate through it’s sincerity. It is Kenneth Lonergan’s best film to date, it is Casey Affleck’s most powerful performance yet, and it is another film that has proven 2016 to be a truly wonderful year for cinema. I cannot recommend it enough!