HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Manchester By the Sea
HTS Overall Score:84
Grief is a terrible thing. It can burn away the dross of disaster, or it can eat away at the soul for eternity. You can hold off the inevitable for a while, but sooner or later the natural effects of sadness and pain wear away at the person. Especially if they don’t have a higher being or family member to hold onto. This is the case with “Manchester By the Sea”, movie deals with family pain, grief, and the slow road to recovery in way that is perfectly described as “It’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey”. Once again, I didn’t get to see this one in theaters (surprise surprise!), but I was more than eager to check it out after the strong output that Casey Affleck has been churning out in recent years (I first noticed him in “Gone Baby, Gone”), as both he and his older brother have become quite the pair to watch out for recently. As much as I knew the general PREMISE going in, I wasn’t prepared for the introspective look at a man and his nephew both going through pain and loss. However, “Manchester By the Sea” is a powerful drama that will tug at the heart strings and feels like it’s half the 2 hour and 17 minutes that it actually is.
We’re introduced to Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) through a flashback of years ago, where he and his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) are fishing with Joe’s son Patrick. The three are laughing it up and living life to the fullest, only for the editing to shift over to modern day Lee. Lee is a shaken shell of a man, with only the outer trappings of being actually alive in place. His voice is dull, his eyes hollow, and a deadened voice the only thing that keeps you from believing he’s a corpse. Lee has just gotten word that his brother Joe has passed away from congenital heart failure, and he has just gained the privilege of becoming Patrick’s ward over in Manchester. The thing is, Lee is in NO shape to take care of himself, let alone another human being in an entirely different city. The only thing that he can think of is to go down to Manchester from his “job” in Boston and try to relocate.
However, while down in his brother’s home, the two men are forced to deal with some of the pain in their life. Patrick is doing his best to put on a brave face and be the rebellious teenager, but underneath is still a boy who has lost his father (the mother is pretty much out of the picture, for good reasons, as shown through flashbacks) and is terrified about what the future will bring. With Lee back in town, he’s now flooded with a deluge of emotions from his past. Some of them are good, but most of them are painful reminders of what he has lost (the exact details of which I’ll leave for the film as it robs some of the scenes of their potency to just have it explained here in the review). He tries to do right by Patrick, but Patrick is more intent on covering his emotions with the struggle of being a teenage boy (you know, girls, sports and ice cream) than dealing with his pain. With ever step that Lee takes, his crushing responsibility becomes heavier and heavier, drawing him closer to the point of complete and utter internal destruction.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91658[/img]The film is strangely edited, with flashbacks interjecting themselves into the present at will. Most of them with some incredibly quick cuts that initially leave the viewer a little puzzled until you get used to the time shifts. Still, once you get used to the editing the story flows very organically and it becomes apparent that we’re not watching a film for a beginning, middle and end. We’re here to watch the healing and grief process unfold for these two men (although, most of the focus is on Lee and his adapting to the new responsibilities of being Patrick’s Ward). It’s one of those situations where you have to realize that the raw emotion and “slice of life” situation is the main premise rather than your typical story arc.
Much of the story is very VERY powerful, with moments of true brilliance coming through (especially near the end where Lee and his ex-wife meet for a heartfelt talk after years of separation due to their personal tragedy/hell). However, the movie doesn’t always hit that raw nerve that gets you intrinsically involved with the characters. The kind that has the tears on standby while you’re lost in their world. Things can be a bit mechanical, and while there is some sense of unpredictability, there are enough classic tropes to make it a little less impactful than it COULD have been.
“Manchester” strives its hardest to be one of those movies that deals with familial issues in a novel way, and for the most part it does a really good job. Casey Affleck is perfectly suited for playing Lee, and both his internal deadness and heart wrenching grief are visually palpable to the viewer. Michelle Williams does wonders with her limited time on screen, and Lucas Hedge sinks into the role of teenage Patrick’s own personal nightmare. Everyone else is simply window dressing to those three, as the film explores the deepest recesses of their pain and allows it to naturally seek logical conclusion.
Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91666[/img]“Manchester By the Sea” comes to Blu-ray with a real stunner of a Blu-ray transfer. Shot entirely on Arri Alexa cameras and given a 2K DI, the Blu-ray sports a handsome encode that captures the simple outdoor Beauty of Manchester, Massachusetts. The movie isn’t exactly once for wild settings of a ton of visual pop, but the film has a wonderful display of fine detail that keeps the film razor sharp for the most part. The outdoor shots with snow covered landscapes look the best, with indoor scenes showing a hint of softness here and there to keep it from being 100% perfect. The colors lean towards the cooler end of the spectrum, with brilliant blues and whites during the long outside walks, and honey colored tinges dominating the indoor moments. Black levels maintain a strong healthy look to them, and don’t show any signs of major crush or artifacting. My only complaint is some weird noise or compression artifacting on a couple of scenes that is especially noticeable outdoors on faces. The scene where Lee gets that “oh no!” call near the beginning is pretty obvious, as is the scene where Patrick and Lee are walking away from the funeral parlor and arguing in front of the black metal gate. It almost looks like pixilation, or heavy mosquito Noise, but I can’t seem to tell.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91674[/img]As with the video encode, the Audio track is not some wild blockbuster mix, but that doesn’t take away from the finely detailed use of the surrounds, as well as a melodic score that actually turns the head of the proverbial horse throughout much of the film. Those musical numbers take up a VERY large portion of the movie and this gives ample opportunity to open up the soundstage for a vibrant and sonically rich layer of envelopment. The dialog is strong and well situated in the front, and the use of Lee’s brother’s boat on the bay create some of the more visceral moments with solid bass lines and good use of the surrounds on the open water.
• "Emotional Lives: The Making of Manchester by the Sea" Featurette
• A Conversation with Director/Writer Kenneth Lonergan
• Deleted Scenes
I’m not sure whether “Manchester By the Sea” was as good as some of the critical acclaim it got (the film boasts 5 Golden Globe nominations), but the performances and heartfelt emotion displayed throughout is certainly worthy of me giving it a solid thumbs-up. You’ll especially get something out of the movie if you’re familiar with slow burn dramas that deal with the journey rather than the end, and have a love of music and scenery moving the story along. Affleck does a FANTASTIC job as Lee and certainly deserves all of the praise heaped on his head, despite some issues with the actual script writing itself. The Blu-ray is magnificent, with amazing audio and video scores as well. Definitely worth a good watch.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 135 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Buy Manchester By the Sea On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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