The Best Film I’ve Seen in 2016
This is my third year at the New York Film Festival, but “Manchester by the Sea” is so far the best movie I’ve seen there. Not only that, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. Why? Because of how difficult the story gets, and how emotional the characters are. It’s the kind of drama I’ve been waiting for all year.
Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, an unhappy Boston handyman, who returns to his hometown in Manchester-by-the-Sea, after the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler). Both of them worked as fisherman, and often took Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) along for the ride. Much to his shock, Lee is temporarily placed as his guardian, and is totally unprepared, especially when remembering his dark past, which led his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) to misery and divorce.
The relationship between Lee and Patrick becomes complicated. Patrick is separately dating two girls Silvie (Kara Hayward from “Moonrise Kingdom”) and Sandy (Anna Baryshnikov from “Wiener Dog”); picks fights with Lee about selling their fishing boat and moving to Boston; and emails his mother (Gretchen Mol), who was a drunk in the past, but cleaned herself up and is now married to a Christian man (Matthew Broderick). And meanwhile, Lee struggles to move on, but can’t communicate with women, picks fights at local bars, and reunites with Randi.
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” is perfect. Even when you get a little lost in its narrative, you still manage to pull through. You get the point on what it’s all about. The locations and scenery are beautifully shot, the drama is pure, and to help represent the dramatic episodes is composer Lesley Barber, who makes the scenes sound haunting. Affleck, Williams, Chandler, and Hedges are all phenomenal in every way possible. You will find both laughs and tears in your eyes, and so did I. This is what people should be seeing. Please don’t overlook it.