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TIFF Review: Manchester by the Sea

manchester by the sea

A socially awkward apartment building custodian goes back to his hometown when his brother dies and is faced with the prospect of looking after his teenage nephew.

Two brothers Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) and Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler) as well as a young boy named Patrick are out on a boat.  It sharply cuts to Lee being a custodian of a couple of apartment buildings who lives alone and has a habit of getting into bar fights.  The mystery starts to lift with a phone call that sends Lee back to his hometown as Joe is in the hospital; he arrives to discover that his sibling has died and made him the legal guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges).  The unexpected circumstances forces Lee to come to terms with a tragic event from his past.

The opening sequence sets up the whole premise of the movie and turns out to be one of several flashbacks woven into the narrative.  The revelation of the family tragedy that has come to define the life of Lee and the relationship between uncle and nephew serve as the two pivotal storylines.  The setting, production design, cinematography, and sound design serve as a backdrop while the performances of the cast take centre stage.   Filmmmaker Kenneth Lonergan is great with composing dialogue and interactions that organically emerge from the situation rather than vice versa.  There are some plot issues.  For example, it is never made quite clear as to why some people in town will have nothing to do with Lee or what exactly he did to get a notorious reputation.

An Oscar nomination awaits Casey Affleck who brilliantly executes the socially awkward moments which are both sad and comical; he also convincing conveys an emotional crippled human being who is so restrained yet prone to sudden violent outbursts.  Kyle Chandler is equally strong in a much smaller part.  Lucas Hedges is not on the same level as Affleck and Chandler but does have some funny moments as his character attempts to juggle a rather busy romantic life.  Some serious weight gain has rendered Matthew Broderick hardly recognizable.  Manchester by the Sea is in the same league as You Can Count on Me which is a real credit to Kenneth Lonergan and Casey Affleck.


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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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