Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea
(C) Amazon Studios, Roadside Attractions Films

In the lead up to the recent Academy Awards ceremony, a likely Best Actor win for Casey Affleck was looking to be the most controversial moment of the evening. But this was overshadowed by the very awkward ceremony finale, in which Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty named the wrong film for Best Picture.

However, Affleck winning Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea was still not without backlash. In 2010, two women working with Affleck on the film I’m Still Here, charting actor Joaquin Phoenix attempts to become a rap artist, sued him for sexual harassment. The cases were settled out of court, and Affleck has always denied the allegations. A lot was made of Brie Larson appearing to not clap after presenting the Oscar to Affleck. Despite any controversy in his personal life, Affleck is a very deserving winner for his performance in Manchester by the Sea.

Lee Chander (Affleck) is living a solitary life as a caretaker, until he receives a call and is told that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died. He returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, and is surprised to discover that his brother has requested that he becomes guardian to his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). There are clearly some underlying issues from Lee’s past that are not immediately apparent, which are shown in flashback, including the issue with him returning to Manchester-by-the-Sea, and dealing with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams).

In playing an isolated character, most actors tend to look away or attempt to avoid conversation in a scene. However, Affleck manages to portray a solitary character in a more visual way; he appears calm, but underneath he is traumatised. Not only does he not avoid people, he instead would rather fight and argue with strangers. This stand-out performance is one of the best cinematic roles of 2016, and Affleck cannot be denied his Oscar win.

As a film, Manchester by the Sea will not appeal to everyone. It’s 137 minutes in length can, at times, feel drawn out in certain scenes. Michelle Williams also has a very short screen time – approximately 10 minutes – despite featuring on the posters, and looking like she appears greatly. Despite having such little screen time, Williams plays her role amazingly, as she does in every film in which she appears.

For a film based around grief, there are some humorous moments in the performances and the script. Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote the screenplay and directed, also won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This beautifully textured drama has many layers, providing a rich story looking at both life and death. Manchester by the Sea isn’t perfect, like most films aren’t, but you will be hard pressed to find another emotional engaging drama with such strong performances from 2016.

Manchester by the Sea is available on digital download from 8th May, and DVD and Blu-ray from 15th May 2017.