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Manchester By The Sea

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There is a moment, early in Kenneth Lonergan’s superb Manchester By The Sea, that captures a dumpster centre frame, as protagonist Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) throws refuse into it. The shot stands for the film as a whole – the materials that we carry around but can never truly escape. Specifically, Manchester By The Sea explores grief and the tension between memory and current perception. This tension is expressed through the juxtaposition of carefully composed mise-en-scene and disrupted editing. Lee is a janitor living an anguished existence in Boston, his one apparent outlet getting into bar fights with strangers. A family bereavement brings him back to his hometown of Manchester, where he undertakes difficult relationships with his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams), while recalling earlier times with both of them as well as his now deceased brother Joe (Kyle Chandler). The fragmented narrative regularly interrupts the present day with flashbacks to earlier events, illustrating the lingering and even entrapping power of traumatic memories. These moments echo other films’ depiction of the instability of memory, from Last Year at Marienbad to Memento. Manchester By The Sea applies this technique to a domestic drama, delivering a beautifully composed and, at times, exquisitely painful portrait of family and memory. Long takes offer unflinching portrayals of grief, delivered in raw yet never overdone performances from Affleck, Hedges and Williams. Lonergan’s script balances these heartrending moments with warmth and also humour, while DOP Jody Lee Lipes imbues the locations with a chilly and earthy beauty. Many moments may have the viewer reaching for tissues but, while it is not the most cheerful watch, Manchester By The Sea is a powerful and rewarding one.

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6 Comments

  1. […] Fences Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water Hidden Figures La La Land Lion Manchester by the Sea […]

  2. […] Chazelle, La La Land Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge Barry Jenkins, Moonlight Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Denis Villenueve, […]

  3. […] for Lead Actor, for Eastern Promises and Half Nelson, respectively, while Casey Affleck, up for Manchester by the Sea, was previously nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Assassination of Jesse […]

  4. […] institutions. As I’ve mentioned before, young actors are less likely to win, and Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea will probably have future opportunities, although the same is true of Patel. Perhaps Patel’s […]

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