When Kenneth Lonergan’s new film is ready to floor you, you’re floored. Even as our sympathetic and witty protagonist returns to his hometown to arrange the funeral for his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), morbid comedy and tender moments overpower what is otherwise a somber affair.
Manchester by the Sea, though, is especially interested in slow reveals, relating to you the current and past life of this rather ordinary family through flashbacks and asides.
When we first meet him, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is not particularly thrilled about working as a janitor in a group of tenements in Boston, dealing with some odd and awkward people. Throughout the film though, he seems to live a Larry David-esque existence dealing with uncomfortable and strange situations and individuals, except everything is more serious and dire, and sometimes he get beat up because of it.
Lee takes north to coastal Manchester when news arrives of his sibling’s passing, something that may be shocking to us but not necessarily to him as we soon find out. Joe’s will, however, is indeed surprisingly for Lee, as new responsibilities – chiefly tending to his tempestuous teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), shatter his life. What’s more, upon Joe’s death, those who had once left his life and now returning, and few got along with Lee.
Sharply-written dialogue and carefully-executed storytelling makes for a staggeringly powerful story about love and family. Sweet-natured, devastatingly funny, and just devastating overall make Manchester a complete masterwork.