Film of the Week: Manchester By the Sea (2016)

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Kenneth Lonergan directs Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams in this superlative drama following a loner who returns to his hometown, where he is reviled, to take care of his teenage nephew after his brother dies. 

No one does bottled up feelings quite like Casey Affleck. His soulful, almost permanently wet eyes and his awkward scratchy voice just ache with repression. And now he’s gonna get the Oscar for it. Trust me… it has to happen for this amazing work. He’s always been outstanding, quietly stealing great movies like Gone Baby Gone, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and even his more mouthy, aggressive early small role in Good Will Hunting. This film shares some of that working class male weepy classic’s booze ridden melancholy, it is also surprisingly similar to the plot of his earlier little seen Lonesome Jim, though that venture was twee-er in it indie intentions. This movie explores the devastating affects of old love, tragedy, guilt and responsibility when it is inflicted on those who don’t talk through their remorse, don’t grandstand. Without saying much, it is epic in its emotional scope. Affleck bares these burdens stoically but in a way recognisable for those of us who didn’t grow up in a Woody Allen movie or an episode of Friends. And for all the misery it processes, it is an entertainment. Wryly funny, surprisingly sexy, craftily assembled. It gives room for Michelle Williams to do her equally always impressive acting thing (a short wounding burst near the end from her will break your heart and all it is, is an invitation to lunch) and introduce you to a name making turn from Lucas Hedges as the cocksure ward. I walked out of this and said to Natalie “That’s a great fucking movie.” And my second trip on a weekday afternoon only cemented that. Powerful stuff.

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