Manchester By The Sea is a naturalistic, character-driven Drama which punches you in the guts and leaves you breathless. It’s a film which hinges on its trust in a lean cast to deliver complex emotions with minimal dialogue and for the most part it delivers.
In a film which conveys so much with so little exposition, the less said about the actual plot the better. Suffice to say “A depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies” is about the limit of what you need to know up front.
Describing Manchester By The Sea as a bleak to gut-wrenching Drama is no understatement yet along the way it manages to strike upon moments of genuine comedy which derive naturally and believably from awkward interactions.
The film’s occasional missteps are stylistic, in particular, one jarring and unnecessary dream sequence and a strange choice of non-diagetic music which accompanies a pivotal flashback.
Yet thankfully overall, Director (and writer) Kenneth Lonergan and Crew take a back seat to a career-defining, powerhouse performance from Casey Affleck and a more than capable supporting Cast.
The film packs one hell of an emotional punch when it needs to, yet there is universal hope to be found in its portrayal of a set of circumstances so unique that it is testament to Affleck and Co that Manchester By The Sea remains all-too believable.