MANCHESTER BY THE SEA—–praise rained in 2016 on writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s deliberation on despair within a bereaved family. Withdrawn into a shell of isolation broken only by sudden lashings out, handyman-janitor ‘Lee Chandler’ (Casey Affleck) is saddled with custody of his sullen nephew (Lucas Hedges), back in the gloomy hometown Lee left in disgrace. Flashbacks reveal the causes of the Chandler family agony.
Minute observations of everyday behavior in the face of a gale of spiritual turmoil punctuate the script, which uses the escape valve of bite-the-hand humor to salvage the tragic story from being too depressing to watch. The cast is exemplary, even if the things their characters say and do are often less than charitable. Affleck is pitch-perfect.
Done for a modest $8,500,000, it earned $55,700,000; as such, it was a success, but the total ranks a fraction next to public purse-strings opened for lighter fare (Zootopia grossed 18 times as much).
137 minutes, with Michelle Williams (marvelous), Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, Tate Donovan, Cara Hayward, Anna Baryshnikov, Heather Burns and Matthew Broderick (achingly real). Affleck won Best Actor at the Oscars, and the Screenplay also took a statue. Nominations went for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Hedges), Supporting Actress (Williams) and Director. We tell ourselves and counsel others that “time heals all wounds”, but there are some hurts so deep that only the fadeout of a lifespan brings peace.