For a long time, if you were talking about an Affleck it was more than likely Ben was the one that was getting the attention. Then 2007 came along and we really saw some acting grit from his brother Casey, which came in the form of Ben’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone and the Andrew Dominick film The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. It was evident that Casey deserved accolades and the eyes started to shift to an actor that should already have an award because of the aforementioned films but also lesser known performances in The Killer Inside Me and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Well, he may have been robbed then but I think he’s a lock for this year’s top Oscar prize in writer and director Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea.
The film stars Affleck as a damaged character named Lee Chander, who works his days as an apartment building superintendent and spends his nights getting drunk at the local bar and provoking fights. When he receives word that his older brother has passed away, he leaves his stark one room lodging to return home to a small seaside community on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Lee extends his stay to make the arrangements for the funeral and put his family affairs in order but finds an issue when it comes to his teenaged nephew, Patrick, who needs a guardian. Lee, unwilling to stay in town because of a horrible past that haunts him and drove him into the big city of Boston, is dead set on leaving Patrick with the best adoptive guardians possible, rather than take on the responsibility himself. This possibly drives a wedge between his nephew and the last remaining family he has.
As I stated before, this is Casey Affleck’s year and could possibly net Lucas Hedges, who plays Patrick, a supporting nod as well. Both play so incredibly well off each other, perfectly reflecting the feeling of grief, existential confusion and being out of place in their new positions. This adds to the overwhelming guilt and deep depression that has made Lee cold and cut off from the rest of humanity. Manchester By The Sea is a perfect example of real characters and real situations that we’re dropped into the middle of by Lonergan. These people had a life before and after these events but this is the story we are given.
I saw this film at the Vancouver International Film Festival and it put me through a rollercoaster of emotions. I laughed a lot at the comedy in their reality and I shed possibly my body weight in tears at this young man’s eventually revealed grief at the loss of his father whom he was close with and the story behind Lee’s exit from town is indescribably soul crushing. Kenneth Lonergan has created a story that will forever be etched in my cinematic soul and one that just made me want to hug my family tight and never take a single moment for granted. A film experience like this only comes along ever so often and this is one to cherish. 5/5