A Restless Ocean 

Manchester By The Sea

Stars: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick, Gretchen Mol, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Kara Hayward, Eric McDermott, Heather Burns and Tate Donovan
Director/Scriptwriter: Kenneth Lonergan
Composer: Lesley Barber
Cinematographer: Jody Lee Lipes
Roadside Attractions
Rating: R for language and themed material
Running Length: 137 Minutes

The music score by Lesley Barber is distracting in a nice way. Classical music, especially Handel, comes unexpectedly to the ear when a drama moment is happening on screen. You don't know what to do: listen to the music or watch the drama. Actually, it makes you reflect on what has happened and is happening now. Nice trick and the same type of trick is used in “Jackie” by composer Mica Levi.  “Manchester By The Sea” is not a British film, it is American and in a town called Manchester, which is by the sea. Casey Affleck and his slow-paced style of acting, does just fine in the role of Lee, who has a troubled past, a troubled present and uncertain future. Into such a life, of course, a little rain must fall....and it does....in buckets. The “little rain” comes in the presence of his nephew, Patrick (newcomer and good performer Lucas Hedges), who is 16 and suddenly under the guardianship of his uncle. The ying and the yang begin to sort life out in a stumbling way. Director/scriptwriter Kenneth Lonergan has written quite a script that is told through flashbacks.

The story begins with viewing the life of Lee, a handyman for four apartment complexes. He and his boss barely get along and the tenants are usually crabby. Suddenly, Lee finds his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed away and Lee is the guardian of his nephew. The mother? Gone...somewhere. Lee and Patrick, with the help of  a longtime friend start to put the pieces together. There is Patrick’s life at school and with friends, Lee trying to figure out how to fit into Patrick’s life.  Plan I and then Plan II and nothing fits. In the meantime, hovering around Lee is a tragedy from his past that insidiously starts to creep forward. What to do?

“Manchester By The Sea” deals with sudden loss, trying to figure out a situation, trying to express emotion, and just plain trying to go on.  That is a heavy load and it is handled in different ways by the characters.  Lee (Affleck) has a new life thrust upon him and for the second time. His ways of coping may not be suitable now. Patrick (Hedges) is surprisingly mature for his age, and he has had to grow up fast through his lifetime, and that under the noses of his relatives. What makes this film stand out is that the person who has the most sense is the youngest main character, Patrick, and just when things seem a bit bleak, he comes up with something new, such as comments on girls.

Lee’s brother, Joe (Chandler) was ever the peaceful guy, but who knew what depth he really had. Randi (Michelle Williams) is Lee’s former wife and though she isn't in the film much, she has her own way of coping, too, as does Elise (Gretchen Mol) who is Joe’s former wife. What a medley of emotional pathways are in Manchester, a town by the sea. Set against a restless ocean, the story, itself,  is a restless one and it grows on you. The word “maturity” takes on new meaning.

Oscar nomination time is sure to come to “Manchester.”

Copyright 2016 Marie Asner