Devastatingly powerful human drama is a must-see film. 4.5 Stars

Recovering from a devastating loss varies from person to person, and no better example of that can be found than in Kenneth Lonergan’s shattering Manchester by the Sea, an intimate character study so exact and so detailed that it’s impossible to look away, no matter how painful or poignant it is.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Released: 16 Dec 2016
Rated: R
Runtime: 137 min
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Genre: Drama
Cast: Casey Affleck, Ben O'Brien, Kyle Chandler, Richard Donelly
Writer(s): Kenneth Lonergan
Plot: An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.
IMDB rating: 8.4
MetaScore: 96

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 17 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/21/2017
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 5/5

Recovering from a devastating loss varies from person to person, and no better example of that can be found than in Kenneth Lonergan’s shattering Manchester by the Sea, an intimate character study so exact and so detailed that it’s impossible to look away, no matter how painful or poignant it is. With commanding performances following through with this story of life and loss, Manchester by the Sea earns all of the plaudits it’s received during this award season.

When his dear brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies from complications due to congestive heart disease, his younger brother Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is flabbergasted to learn that his brother has named him as the guardian for his sixteen year-old nephew Patrick (Ben O’Brien as a child, Lucas Hedges as a teenager). Lee had left Manchester some years ago fleeing from the memories of a personal tragedy from which he still hasn’t recovered (nor have many residents of the area who don’t see Lee’s return to town as a positive event), but guardianship of Patrick means either taking him away from his friends and moving him to his cramped quarters in Quincy or Lee’s returning to Manchester to see if he can restart his life there.

Director Kenneth Lonergan has written the screenplay incorporating numerous flashbacks during Lee’s shaky time in Manchester attempting to see if he can adjust to life there once again, flashbacks that fill in the backstory concerning his relationships with his brother, his nephew, his own home life with wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and three children, and his relationship with the town which all comes crumbling down along with the walls and roof of his home after a fire which he inadvertently started consumes it. These memories, some hilarious and some so wrenching that one’s heart breaks, form the core of the movie, sprinkled in among Lee’s torturous attempts to bond with his teenaged nephew, his brother’s born again ex-wife (Gretchen Mol) and her creepy new husband (Matthew Broderick), and find a way to reconcile his overwhelming sense of grief and loss with his new circumstances. While the movie runs well over two hours, none of it seems meandering or pointless, and we get so caught up in both Lee and Patrick’s stories of monumental changes and their own unique coping mechanisms that the time passes by before we know it. Director Lonergan has beautifully and lovingly shot bars and neighborhoods and marinas that give a gracious sense of time and place to the movie, and the seasonal differences we glimpse throughout mirror some of the inner workings which our two protagonists are trying so hard to push down and not deal with.

It’s a revelatory performance for Casey Affleck here. Lee is a man with raging emotions bottled up and unarticulated (he actually finds it hard to ever put his exact thoughts into words; his stammering and reticence to speak is one of the character’s most endearing traits to a viewer but most maddening to people with whom he comes into contact), but occasionally his emotions explode into physical violence, sometimes to himself and sometimes to others in the vicinity of his rage. Throughout, it’s a mesmerizing performance. Lucas Hedges’ Patrick is bubbling with hormones, juggling two girl friends, his father’s boat, places on the school basketball and hockey teams, and his lead guitar role in a band, and his performance offers the older generation a sly, spry look at what today’s teens have on their minds. Michelle Williams gets some prime moments to shine in key scenes before and after the tragedy that forever changed her life, and her final confrontation with Lee on a Manchester street is stunningly emotional and one of the great scenes in any of this year’s films. Kyle Chandler is a sturdy older brother in the flashback moments with his son and his brother, and C.J. Wilson plays the family’s best friend George with grace and thoughtfulness. Matthew Broderick and Gretchen Mol offer a very awkward picture of one kind of life Patrick might be living had events gone in another direction.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. This is a beautiful transfer capturing the sprightly spring colors and the gray, hazy winter ones in all their glory and with accurate flesh tones. Sharpness is usually quite excellent except for a few softer-looking images in over-the-shoulder shots while driving in various vehicles. Black levels are very deep in some of the few nighttime sequences, and contrast has been consistently applied throughout the presentation. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix provides the strongest surround elements with Lesley Barber’s background score and a host of classical and rock music used as accompaniment. Dialogue has been superbly recorded and has mostly been resigned to the center channel with just the trace of some directionalized dialogue during an off-screen telephone conversation early on that allows us to begin gauging Lee’s extreme emotional withdrawal. Ambient sounds are quite effective when utilized (a hockey scrimmage brings the surround channels alive, and harbor sounds likewise get some spread through the soundfield).

Special Features: 3/5

Audio Commentary: it’s called a “conversation” in the bonus features, but it’s writer-director Kenneth Lonergan in a give and take with content producer Peter Ventrella as they work their way through the film: its story, themes, performers, and production.

Emotional Lives: The Making of Manchester by the Sea (16:00, HD): writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, producers Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Kevin J. Walsh, and Chris Moore, and actors Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Gretchen Mol discuss the film’s depths of emotion and heartrending story.

Deleted Scenes (5:50, HD): three scenes may be played separately or in montage.

Promo Trailers (HD): Southside with You, Patriot’s Day, Indignation, La La Land, and Café Society.

DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.

Overall: 4.5/5

One of the year’s most outstanding and heartrending achievements, Manchester by the Sea mixes the joys and sorrows of life in realistic measure forging one of the most emotionally powerful films seen in some time. Highly recommended!

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Matt Hough

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Mike Frezon

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Hey Matt!

Excellent--as always--review. Even though I disagree with a lot of it! ;)

My wife and I love a good character drama...so when I heard initial rumblings about this film and how great the performances were (even though the subject material was depressing), I was excited about this film.

But we both ended up being really disappointed. The film as a whole did nothing for me. I sum it up as a study of some people who were brought together by family ties...who endured a number of tragedies in their lives...and, that's about it. For me this falls into a "slice of life" film in which there was very little growth among the protagonists and very little development of the plot.

Affleck was okay as the wrecked character of Lee...although he came off more as just emotionless. I've never seen Casey Affleck in anything else (that I recall) so I can't really compare his performance against anything else he's done. But I'm really not seeing what the buzz is all about. The character suffered great tragedy, for sure. The scene immediately following his interview with the local police was certainly dramatic enough and gave me a context into which to place all his deep emotions from throughout the film. Affleck's study of a character who was holding in so much is the one thing I can point to as significant in the film. But not enough. And I never felt like I saw his character change in any way over the course of our time together.

As for the story itself, I'm not getting it. To center his inner demons in the secondary story involving his nephew and the guardianship issues doesn't accomplish much for me. We watched him go through the motions of dealing with the guardianship issues (unsatisfactorily, to my mind) all at the same time having his backstory revealed as if to explain why he had his issues.

I am, again, mystified as to why people are thinking Michelle Williams' performance here was so good...seeing as how she had so very little to do. The scene you mentioned where they ran into each other on the street, to me, seemed almost like an afterthought. I don't get what really advanced as a result of that interaction.

On a particular note, I'm a little amused that you think the portrayal of the teen's (Lucas Hedges) life of girls, sports and rock music gives an insight to the older generation into what's on teen minds. Seems pretty time-worn to me! :laugh: I don't think things have changed too much!

So much like this year's Lion, I am left with a film that didn't speak to me. Didn't advance much of a story...didn't grow a character, etc. I can be okay with a story in which not much happens, as long as the journey is interesting. But I didn't find this story all that interesting...or compelling.
 
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Matt Hough

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SOrry you and your wife didn't care for it. It left me an emotional wreck for much of the time.
 

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I started this with my wife; she bailed after about 15 minutes. I kept going for another 20 and then I bailed. I never could get on the inside. I always felt like I was on the outside of the glass looking in at these lives.

It left me an emotional wreck for much of the time.
I think ultimately that was my problem. I could feel it coming if I kept watching. Life is hard enough right now. When I have leisure time, I don't want to feel like an emotional wreck. I want to escape feeling like an emotional wreck. If I do want to feel like an emotional wreck, on purpose, I'll watch Barry Lyndon. That's the kind of emotional wipe out I can rally behind. :)
 

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I'm really looking forward to this when my copy arrives Tuesday. I love movies that trigger emotion and give us a slice of life. The very reasons given why some didn't like it are exactly the reasons I will like it. I recently watched Loving and thought it was utterly brilliant.
 

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I'm really looking forward to this when my copy arrives Tuesday. I love movies that trigger emotion and give us a slice of life. The very reasons given why some didn't like it are exactly the reasons I will like it. I recently watched Loving and thought it was utterly brilliant.
I think if I was in a different place in my life, I might get something out of it. I think a lot depends on timing for some folks. That's the great thing about film vs. plays (performed and never seen again). This movie will still be around in the future. I can give it a try later in life. Maybe it will speak to me then.
 

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If Viola Davis were not running in this category, and she's really not supporting anyone, Michelle Williams would win for her shattering performance. That one scene between her and Affleck is devastating. No spoilers. And Affleck's character does develop and grow. There's hope at the end. Wonderful film; a real artistic accomplishment. My second favorite film of the year, right after Moonlight.
 
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And Affleck's character does develop and grow. There's hope at the end. Wonderful film; a real artistic accomplishment. My second favorite film of the year, right after Moonlight.
Definitely. Affleck is stunning in this film, as he builds so much internally with the character - I really hope he wins the Oscar because he gives such a great performance.

I don't understand the sentiments that the characters don't change/grow and the movie doesn't end in a hopeful way. Maybe people are so conditioned to see movies with BIG CHARACTER REVELATIONS that if the film doesn't "fix" everything by the end, it doesn't register!
 

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What Colin said. Life is not BIG DRAMA, but small moments that eventually add up and make a difference. That's what make Manchester such a true-to-life experience.
 
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Mike Frezon

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SOrry you and your wife didn't care for it. It left me an emotional wreck for much of the time.
No one was sorrier than us, Matt. One of our absolute favorite films is Doubt. I was so certain this particular drama was going to join our list of faves.

And I realize we seem to be in the minority here.

Conversely, I'm thrilled so many people are touched by this film.
 

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I was so looking forward to watching this tomorrow, but Amazon failed their promised release day delivery... again. They have absolutely no wiggle-room as they always ship at the last possible minute to get there on time. They shipped it out at 6pm Monday night and of course it didn't make it on time.
 

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Contact them and let them know, Mark.

If nothing else you should be able to wrangle an extra month of a Prime membership--if you are, indeed, a Prime member.

They usually are quite serious about meeting their delivery dates.
 

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Contact them and let them know, Mark.

If nothing else you should be able to wrangle an extra month of a Prime membership--if you are, indeed, a Prime member.

They usually are quite serious about meeting their delivery dates.
Yep, I'm a Prime member. When they missed their delivery date of Loving a couple weeks ago I complained and they gave me a $10 credit. I kind of hate to complain again so soon.
 

Mike Frezon

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1.) It's not your fault.

2.) It's a legit complaint.

3.) They'd prefer you were happy.

Just be sure they sent you an e-mail giving you today as the actual delivery date. I once got into a big tussle with them because even though I had pre-ordered months before a title's release they never guaranteed me release date delivery...anywhere. I didn't win. :angry:

:D
 

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I watched an HD streaming rental of this tonight on my new 4K OLED and the picture quality was so impressive it made me seriously question the wisdom of buying blu-rays of films that seldom get watched more than twice ( and often just once!) It was razor sharp, with perfect color and zero artifacts. Since the HD master was likely the same source for the blu and the streaming version, I would have expected the blu to get a solid 5/5, since a couple of soft-focus shots ( which I didn't even notice) are the fault of the source rather than the transfer.
 

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I'm with Mike Frezon about this film - didn't like it at all, and I'm not sure what anyone is seeing in Michelle Williams' performance - it's okay, all the actors are okay, but the film - not for me, I'm afraid.
 

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I was so looking forward to watching this tomorrow, but Amazon failed their promised release day delivery... again. They have absolutely no wiggle-room as they always ship at the last possible minute to get there on time. They shipped it out at 6pm Monday night and of course it didn't make it on time.
What upsets me is when they say "guaranteed delivery date" and then fail to make that date. I called and asked about the guarantee and they didn't seem to get it. If you guarantee something, that means if it doesn't happen, there should be compensation, because it was guaranteed. And there was blank silence. I suggested they simply change the language from "guaranteed" to "expected." No response. I told them that their guarantee meant nothing to me anymore and hung up.
 

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So, I watched this and really enjoyed it. There is plenty of comedy in the story that helps with the tragedy. I don't think that comedy is cute or forced either as along with the emotions portrayed it felt very genuine to me. A couple comments on things Mike says above...

Affleck was okay as the wrecked character of Lee...although he came off more as just emotionless.
The character is trying very hard to tamp down his emotions however Affleck attempts to let them leak through mostly in subtle ways through his eyes and body language. So, while he is obviously holding back much of the time I actually think the character is very emotional throughout the story...we as an audience can see it I believe more than the characters he interacts with who just find his distance, hesitations and awkward silences uncomfortable. One interesting moment comes when Lee arrives at the hockey rink to inform his nephew that his father has passed. In what would likely normally be a big scene in most movies (telling a family member somebody close to them has died) the director chose to play that scene as a long shot where we can watch them from the other side of the rink rather than be up close to hear what is being said. This choice I believe flows with other choices in Affleck's portrayal as we watch their body language from afar (with the other kids on the hockey team as if we too were standing there) specifically because in this film I believe the Lee character is going to be revealed to us more through his behavior than through what he says.

I would contrast this with the scene at the opening of the film showing Lee and Patrick when he was younger on the boat. In this scene we watch what is obviously a happy moment also in a long shot where we see the scene play out in body language and we can see how in this moment it's all warmth and affection and good times...just by the physical way they are interacting. So, the director constantly puts us as the audience in situations where we are observing where these characters are emotionally though looks and body language and there is an obvious difference in the scene at the rink and the early scene on the boat. Lonergan as a director and writer I believe follows the rule that if you can avoid having the characters say it do so and have them portray it physically instead. This film is probably a really good example of that rule and the reason so many people love Affleck's work here is because it requires so much nuance and physical acting over just delivering dramatic line readings. He is very expressive in the film just not verbally.


And I never felt like I saw his character change in any way over the course of our time together.
I certainly feel like we see him change but not in a direct arc as the film uses a flashback structure to show him at different times in his life. So, we see him as a happy man. We see him in that opening scene on the boat with young Patrick, we see him having fun with his friends and brother and how much he loves his wife but these moments are interspersed throughout the film as flashbacks/memories. I think part of the huge tragedy in the film is that we see what a loving man he was with his friends and family and how openly affectionate he was with them but he has become this person that has now closed himself off. So, the people around him lost Lee as well because he no longer is the same man. So, I do think we see him change and that we see how he has changed is an important aspect of the story.
 

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An outstanding film! Lee wasn't emotionless, you don't have to show your emotions outwardly to be an emotional character. His silence, how he processes what's going on around him and the angry outbursts tell me he's an emotional wreck still trying to cope with life, but without the "life light" he had prior to the tragedy that tore his life apart.
 

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It is very tragic that
Lee's children died in the fire.
But it wasn't an unavoidable accident. Just as someone drinking and driving isn't an "accident", neither was this situation. A drunk driver CHOOSES to drink and ultimately drive. Society used to give drunk driver's a slap on the wrist. Now we mostly hold them responsible for their actions, whether they "intended" to run into that other car or not.

Affleck's character doesn't get a pass from me for what he did, "accidental" or not. The "accident" explained why he was moping around and being a genuinely unlikeable guy but it doesn't excuse his behavior. He screwed up by drinking, partying, and not being careful. A decent human redeems himself by becoming a better person following self-caused tragedy, not by becoming a brooding a-hole that is completely unlikeable.

Affleck's character was the bad guy in this film and, as such, I felt no sympathy for him.

Mark