Manchester By The Sea (USA;137 min.)

directed by:
Ken Lonergan
starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Susan Pourfar
Mancheter By The Sea

Michael says: Writer/director Ken Lonergan made a big splash with his directorial debut, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME. Since then, it’s been sixteen years, and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is only his third directorial effort. He’s written a bunch of successful film, and his sophomore film was completed in 2005 but not released until 2011, so the overwhelming praise his latest film has been receiving is interesting. There’s a lot to like about MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. It’s centered (and shot) on the North Shore of Massachusetts, very near where I grew up. It featured an emotionally devastating story, which I always appreciate. The acting is uniformly strong, from leads Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams, to small parts like Susan Pourfar, who leapt off the screen at me as Nurse Irene. But while I liked MANCHESTER BY THE SEA a whole lot, there were a few writing and directorial choices that left me a little cold, in what I’m sure will be a minority among passionate lovers of the film.

“My biggest issue, and the one that pulled me right out of what a pivotal moment, was the overblown, nearly Wagnerian music that overwhelmed the quiet horror and emotionally devastating moment that forms the core of the film. That music returned a few times sadly, but never as annoyingly as that moment. There were also a few plot holes that, while not undermining, were annoying enough to take me out of the moment. Also, a few choices to show how damaged and withdrawn the lead character was irked me as well, and I don’t feel were necessary. That said, the emotional moments, and man, there were very emotional, were deftly acted, especially by Williams; and the authenticity of the lives of these characters was beautifully handled as well, best represented by Lucas Hedges, and the afore-mentioned Pourfar, among many others. So while I really liked it a lot, I can’t give MANCHESTER BY THE SEA more than 3.5 cats