Manchester by the Sea. Kenneth Lonergan. USA.
While hardly the wild, beautiful, scintillating, messy near-masterpiece his previous film, Margaret, was, Manchester by the Sea is perhaps the film writer/director Kenneth Lonergan needed to stay afloat in Hollywood. While Margaret will always be marred by its dubious six-year journey making it to the screen (and even then, barely so), Manchester by the Sea flips on a lot of the same ideas, as it navigates, instead, male grief and the litigation surrounding death. It’s certainly better written than it is directed, and for better or worse, it never falls into the realm of melodrama.
The cast, led by Casey Affleck as a withdrawn-but-unhinged maintenance man who returns to his titular hometown in winter to settle his brother’s affairs after he dies from heart failure, is uniformly solid, particularly Michelle Williams as Affleck’s ex-wife (who appears to be channeling a bit of Liza Minnelli in her key scene). It’s hard to say if Lonergan’s subdued dramatics are used to mirror the chilly physical locale as well as the characters’ masculine armor, but it certainly works, even if I was left waiting for a hysterical Anna Paquin to come shake things up a bit.
Manchester by the Sea was released by Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios in the U.S. and Universal Pictures in France this month. StudioCanal will release the film in the U.K. early in 2017.
With: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, Matthew Broderick, Heather Burns, Tate Donovan, Josh Hamilton, Anna Baryshnikov, Kara Hayward, Kenneth Lonergan, Liam McNeill, Missy Yager, Ben O’Brien, Stephen Henderson