The Costumes: Manchester By The Sea (2016)

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC #CamFF 2016: Manchester By The Sea - Review

Character transformation expressed through costume design: Manchester by the Sea

Lee Chandler experiences a life changing event, and with this internal transformation we witness an external transformation. During flashbacks showing Chandler’s earlier life with a wife and children, he dresses in light and colourful clothing, such as a bright mustard t-shirt and beige shorts. These colours reflect the presence of a brighter and more comedic personality at this point, as well as the presence of purpose in his life as a father and husband.

Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea

During the present, Chandler has lost his children and subsequently his wife. This is paralleled with the loss of colour and brightness in his wardrobe. He is now seen is dark shades of blue, grey and green. This loss of colour and variation evidences his loss of joy and expression of individuality. The absence of boldness/brightness matches the absence of purpose and love/emotions in his life. Black is the colour of grief, so utilising this colour predominantly, works to evidence the enduring sorrow Chandler is facing. It also emphasises the mysteriousness of this character, highlighting his loss of ability to connect to those around him in the way he used to.



Also, the contrast in styles and colours expresses the change in his life. Flashbacks to Chandler’s previous lifestyle show a variety of activities, such as going fishing with his nephew, or hanging out with his friends, hence a wide-ranging colourful wardrobe. Now, Chandler is mostly seen working and spending time alone and therefore restricts himself to more monotonous styles and colours. These seemingly subtle yet important developments in wardrobe assist in the shifting of moods and circumstances, as well as helping to navigate where in time the scene lies.

Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea


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