‘Manchester by the Sea’ Is Tragic Bliss

Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘Manchester by the Sea’ exploited the human condition for all of its flaws, resulting in one of the most compassionate films of the year.

Manchester by the Seais equally sincere as it is conscious of its surroundings, making for great drama.

manchester by the sea
Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

With every death comes a chance of new life. And nothing feels more like a fresh slice of life than director Kenneth Lonergan’s newest film, Manchester by the Sea.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) isn’t your typical janitor from Quincy, Mass. Between bickering patrons and an embedded state of loneliness, Lee finds himself at a record-breaking rock bottom among the news of his brother, Joe’s (Kyle Chandler) fatal heart attack. When he returns to his hometown of Manchester to inform Joe’s son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Chandler discovers his appointed role of guardianship over the detached 16-year-old. With arrangements to be made and the sudden return of his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), Chandler must confront his past to understand where his future truly lies.

The beloved drama isn’t afraid to take you past your comfort zone. It’s a story that might seem all-too-familiar, yet familiarity has never felt so fervent and unrestrained.  Tough topics require tough love, and Lonergan uses Manchester by the Sea to prove himself worthy of your two hours.

The film also digs deeper past what’s visible at sea level, linking some distraught and jarringly rich characters with the common thread of loss. Manchester by the Sea even creates a sense of rural euphoria in this small speck of Northern New England, treating the environment as a separate, living being on-screen. Together, the film leaves a lasting impression in how these lavish character studies represent an alternate version of ourselves, especially in the face of imminent grief.

It’s genuine, it’s honest and it’s whole-hearted in its toggle of the tenses. Not to mention, the acting performances are remarkably upfront, counteracting themselves with an emotional subjectivity only found by our own experiences.

“It had me close to tears,” said Jantzen Rogalski, a 20-year-old junior in the TV/Communications major at Montclair State University. “I would highly recommend Manchester by the Sea to someone looking for a great story with plenty of relatable, touching moments.”

Overall, Manchester by the Sea stays afloat over the weight of its own material, keeping it accessible by its compassion for reality. Sure, Lonergan might embellish or dramatize from time to time. Yet, through our indecisions, one must try to remember the simple truth. We fit in their shoes, for better or for worse.

Manchester by the Sea is now playing in select movie theaters worldwide. Some local venues include Paramus’ AMC Garden State 16 and even Bow Tie Clairidge Theater in the heart of downtown Montclair! For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com today.

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