Film Notes: Manchester by the Sea (2015) directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan

US / 137 min / Color / Pearl Street Films, The Media Farm, K Period Media, The A / Middleton Project, B Story Dir: Kenneth Lonergan Pro: Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward Scr: Kenneth Lonergan Cine: Jody Lee Lipes Mus: Lesley Barber Cast: Casey Affleck, Michele Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, CJ Wilson, Heather Burns, Tate Donovan, Josh Hamilton, Anna Baryshnikov, Matthew Broderick, Gretchen Mol Synopsis: Lee Chandler is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His brother’s heart has given out suddenly, and he’s been named guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy.  (Official website)  Release Dates: 23 January 2016 (Sundance Film Festival), 16 December 2016 (USA), 3 February 2017 (Spain) Spanish title: Manchester frente al mar IMDb Rating: 8.2.

Begoña and I have had the opportunity to go see Manchester by the Sea, a superb film in my view despite the harshness of its proposal, very much worth see it.

Director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan introduces his newest film, Manchester by the Sea.

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler star in this emotionally overwhelming and critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), about a reclusive handyman who must face his painful past when he returns to his Massachusetts hometown after the sudden death of his beloved older brother.

With only his third feature in 16 years, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) takes us through a familiar milieu in Manchester by the Sea, but does so in wholly unfamiliar ways.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck, in a career-defining performance), is the resident handyman for a small apartment complex in a Boston suburb. He spends his days shovelling snow, fixing leaks, and doing his best to ignore the tenants’ small talk. He spends his evenings either alone in his basement apartment or nursing a beer at his local, where he’ll pick a fight with anyone who throws a glance his way. Yet somehow we know that buried beneath this sadness is another life.

When he receives the news that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died of a congenital heart condition and that, to his unpleasant surprise, he’s been appointed legal guardian of Joe’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee returns to his nearby seaside hometown, a place of both cherished and painful memories. Despite the sudden loss of his father, and in stark contrast to his uncle, Patrick is full of life. A popular student, he juggles hockey, band practice, and two girlfriends. As this mismatched pair stumbles through the mundane details of estate planning and the awkward strain of adolescence, Lee is forced to confront his past, revealed seamlessly through flashbacks, and the realities of his present.

Lonergan’s genius is rooted not in the extraordinary, but the ordinary. A master of detail, he uses his character’s daily surroundings and routines to create a beautifully textured reality. He turns the loose narrative structure into one of his film’s greatest strengths: rather than depend on an obvious narrative arc or dramatic set pieces, he draws out the emotion of his text subtly and steadily. In Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has created a world so messy that it can only be described as wonderfully human. (Kerri Craddock) Source: Toronto International Film Festival


Kenneth Lonergan is now three for three. Following on You Can Count on Me and Margaret, Manchester by the Sea confirms he’s one of contemporary cinema’s most brilliant, moving storytellers (and directors of actors). Lonergan transforms what in lesser hands might have been another entry in the subgenre of blue-collar New England family “miserabilia” into a tragicomic portrait of failure and resilience in a uniquely American vernacular—imagine Eugene O’Neill channeling George S. Kaufman. (Source: The Museum of Modern Art)

Sundance 2016 Interview: Kenneth Lonergan on Manchester by the Sea by Nick Allen

Official website

The New Yorker Film Review

The Hollywood Reporter Film Review


6 thoughts on “Film Notes: Manchester by the Sea (2015) directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan

  1. I loved this one, Jose! The other film you should try to catch if it comes your way is Moonlight! Beautiful pair of films competing for the Oscar, although they might both lose to La La Land.

  2. An extraordinary film – my only quibble is that I did not like the music choices or the way the were edited in to the film, but a small price to pay for such brilliantly observed anguish. In the post title you give 2015 as the year, but that is a typo, surely? 🙂

      1. Well, it was filmed int he Spring of 2015, true, but has never been screened anywhere as a complete film before 2016. On the other hand, the director’s previous film, MARGARET, spent several years in post production. Filming ended in 2005 but after many disagreements, it only got screened in 2011, and only then in a version that the director did not condor complete!

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