I watched Manchester by the Sea mainly because I heard NPR’s interview of Kenneth Lonergan on my commute one day. I didn’t know what this movie was about and I just watched it on a whim. Spoilers ahead, be warned:

Things that I didn’t like:

  • Watching the movie without any context of what it was about was potentially a bad move. I had a really hard time staying interested for the first 30-60 minutes of the movie. After the fact, I was able to appreciate the slow pace of the movie and the flashback method of telling the audience Lee Chandler’s story. However, I had a really hard time focusing/caring about the movie for the first hour.
  • Lee is such an asshole. Even if he’s been through shit, he’s still an asshole.

Things that I liked:

  • Pretty good cast, especially Lucas Hedges. Unlike most people, I’m not entirely convinced on Casey Affleck. He did a good job with this role as the pained Lee Chandler, who has lost all but Patrick in his life. However, I’m not convinced he’s a “good actor” per se. To be determined though. Lucas Hedges was pretty great though.
  • Crisp and beautiful cinematography.
  • An amazing soundtrack.
  • I liked the flashback style of telling Lee’s story. It allowed the movie to have two climactic points: the first, when Lee finds out he has been declared Patrick’s legal guardian and the second, when Lee and Randi have their subtle, but pivotal confrontational meeting. The first climactic point purely existed because the audience learned at that moment what it meant to Lee to be a guardian of a child, and how he didn’t feel ready for it after what had happened to his own children. The second was just inevitable in the story line. A very bittersweet confrontation, that provided no closure for either character. The meeting teased at the idea of closure between the two characters, but didn’t provide it. That painful moment, in and of itself, was bittersweet but also the crux of the movie. We don’t always get closure, even if we’d want to. And sometimes we can’t beat the shitty hand that we’re dealt, so we have to find an alternative, a fact that Lee ends up reconciling with at the end of the movie.

In a lot of ways I really liked the movie. The story-telling (cinematography, music, etc.) was beautiful. Character development was very well done. The story itself, about human pain and suffering, was compelling. It was about average people, leading average lives, with problems that any of us could face. But, part of me feels like it didn’t really live up to the hype surrounding it. It was good, but not amazing. It was a solid movie, but I can’t really put a finger on what was missing. Anyway, I’d say it worth a watch, but you’ll probably be in a semi-shit mood at the end. So, be ready for that.

Fun fact: the city is actually Manchester-by-the-Sea…apparently?