Manchester by the Sea (2016)

by | May 26, 2023 | Film Reviews, 2010s, Drama | 0 comments

Resilience in the Depths of Loss


Release date: 18 November 2016 (USA)
Genre: Drama
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Cinematographer: Jody Lee Lipes
Budget: $9 million USD
Box office: $79 million USD


“I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it. I’m sorry.” – Lee Chandler



“Manchester by the Sea” is a cinematic masterpiece that stands as a pinnacle of modern filmmaking. With a perfect score of 10 out of 10 stars, this review will delve into the various aspects that make it a poignant exploration of grief, guilt, and resilience. Set in the eponymous town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, the film follows the life of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a janitor living a life of solitude in Boston, who is unexpectedly thrust into the role of guardian for his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), following the untimely death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler).



The plot of “Manchester by the Sea” is a heart-wrenching journey into the human experience, one marked by loss, grief, and the struggle to move forward. Lee’s character is central to the narrative, and his personal history, marred by tragedy, is gradually unveiled through a non-linear storytelling approach. This structure allows the audience to piece together the fragments of his past, mirroring the way he himself confronts the painful memories and guilt that haunt him.

The story is a meditation on how people cope with devastating loss, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of grief. Lee’s reluctance to embrace his newfound responsibility for Patrick, and the layers of anguish he carries, create a compelling, multi-dimensional character. The film does not offer easy answers or resolution, but it does depict the complex, messy, and often nonlinear nature of healing.


Manchester by the Sea (2016)



Kenneth Lonergan’s direction in “Manchester by the Sea” is nothing short of brilliant. He takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, seamlessly blending the past and the present to create a narrative that unfolds in a compelling and organic manner. The non-linear storytelling adds depth and complexity to the characters and their relationships.

Lonergan’s ability to capture the essence of the Massachusetts coastal town plays a pivotal role in creating the film’s atmosphere. The bleak and unforgiving New England winter is not just a backdrop but a character in itself, reflecting the internal struggles of the protagonists. Lonergan’s direction ensures that the setting is not just a stage for the story but an integral part of it.


Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Lee Chandler is nothing short of mesmerizing. He immerses himself so deeply into the character that his performance feels profoundly authentic and relatable. Affleck’s ability to convey a wide spectrum of emotions, from profound grief to subtle humor, is a testament to his acting prowess. His Academy Award for Best Actor was well-deserved, as he effortlessly carries the emotional weight of the film.

Lucas Hedges, as Patrick, complements Affleck’s Lee with his remarkable performance. He captures the complexities of a teenager navigating his own grief and the sudden responsibilities thrust upon him. Hedges’ portrayal is naturalistic and nuanced, making Patrick’s character incredibly relatable. The chemistry between Affleck and Hedges is a significant factor in the film’s emotional impact.

The supporting cast, including Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife Randi, also delivers outstanding performances. Williams may have limited screen time, but she makes every moment count. Her poignant performance in a crucial scene with Affleck is emotionally shattering and serves as a pivotal moment in the film’s exploration of grief and healing.


Manchester by the Sea (2016)



Lonergan’s screenplay is a gem in its own right. The dialogue in “Manchester by the Sea” is remarkably real and natural, making the characters feel like genuine people dealing with profound emotions and circumstances. The way characters interact, the unspoken words, and the underlying tension all contribute to the film’s authenticity.

The non-linear structure of the screenplay allows the audience to slowly uncover the layers of Lee’s past and the reasons behind his emotional burden. This approach keeps the viewer engaged and invested in the story, as they piece together the puzzle of Lee’s life along with the characters on screen.


Technical Aspects

The technical aspects of “Manchester by the Sea” are nothing short of exceptional. The cinematography, by Jody Lee Lipes, is a visual feast. The film’s ability to capture the harsh beauty of the New England winter, with its cold and unforgiving landscapes, mirrors the internal turmoil of the characters. The wintry scenes provide a stark contrast to the warmth and intimacy of certain moments, emphasizing the film’s theme of life persevering even in the face of overwhelming loss.

Lesley Barber’s hauntingly beautiful score adds an additional layer of emotional depth to the film. The music complements the narrative perfectly, intensifying the emotional impact of key moments. It weaves seamlessly into the fabric of the story, enhancing the viewer’s connection to the characters and their experiences.


Manchester by the Sea (2016)


Box Office Performance

Despite its heavy themes and emotional depth, “Manchester by the Sea” garnered significant attention and critical acclaim. The film’s box office performance was impressive, given its limited release and focus on the independent film market. While it may not have achieved blockbuster status, it showcased the power of independent cinema in reaching a discerning and appreciative audience.

The film’s critical success translated into commercial success to some extent, as it attracted audiences looking for thought-provoking, emotionally resonant storytelling. Its performances at various film festivals and award ceremonies, including the Academy Awards, added to its reputation and drew more viewers to theaters.



“Manchester by the Sea” is a cinematic triumph that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and performance. It explores the depths of human emotion and resilience in the face of unimaginable loss. The film’s non-linear narrative, raw performances, and authentic dialogue contribute to its status as a modern masterpiece. “Manchester by the Sea” deserves every bit of the praise it has received and stands as a testament to the power of cinema to convey the complexities of the human experience. With a perfect score of 10 out of 10 stars, it is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the art of filmmaking and the exploration of profound, universal themes.


My Rating: 10/10


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