A gruelling two-plus hours watching personal tragedies by Richard Jones

A look at Manchester By The Sea (M)…

manchstrIT’S never comfortable viewing to sit through a movie where family deaths underline what the characters are dealing with up on the screen.

The chain of dramas Lee Chandler has to handle are intense and affecting.

Casey Affleck plays Chandler with a sort of repressed anger, starting with his work as a janitor in a freezing Boston suburb: shovelling snow, unblocking toilets and kitchen pipes and dealing with tenants who are rude and demanding.

He copes with these folk reasonably well. It’s after work when he picks a fight in a bar with two men (who could be gay, but we’re never told) that we start to cotton on that he’s carrying severe emotional trauma.

We don‘t know where all this came from and writer-director Kenneth Lonergan is in no hurry to let us know. The film proceeds pretty slowly as we see in flashback how Lee interacted with his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and his young nephew Patrick.

Joe is a commercial fisherman based in Manchester By The Sea, north of Boston, and the three go out on the lobster boat at weekends. They’re out there ostensibly to catch fish, but also for Lee to tease Patrick about the presence of sharks.

This is the sunnier Lee, a devoted father to three little children and a loving wife Randi (Michelle Williams) who’s a bit on his case about his solid drinking.

One night Lee gathers a few buddies – mainly fishermen and tradies – for an extended evening of pool and booze and it’s around 2 or 2.30 the next morning when Lee’s life alters irrevocably.

The second half of the movie centres on Lee and Patrick’s relationship.

Now 16, Patrick (Lucas Hedges) has Lee as a guardian because Dad, Joe, died from heart disease and his mother (Gretchen Mol) had walked out on the family.

Lee’s not too sure how to handle Patrick who not only has a new band but two girlfriends, plus the existing and never lost love of the sea.

Lee meets now ex-wife Randi down the street in the fishing village one day in an emotionally wrenching scene. And that was after he’d actually sat in one evening with a beer in hand with the mother of one of Patrick’s girlfriends.

It’s clear that the dark something which had happened in the past hadn’t meant that Lee’s heart wasn’t still with Randi.

It certainly still is. Nevertheless Patrick and Lee continue to joust verbally all the time, particularly when they’re driving to band practice or homework at one of the young man’s girlfriends’ places.

It seems the teenager’s optimism and love of life is almost an affront to Lee, the brooding loner.

Again he involves himself in a barroom brawl, this time in Manchester, and again he comes off the worse for wear.

Understandably, the men in the fishing village are more physically intimidating and powerful than collar-and-tie Boston bar aficionados.

It’s a movie loaded with deep and all-consuming sorrow and, at close to two-and-a-half hours, is quite tough going.

Affleck, of course, won the Best Actor Oscar at the recent Academy Awards. And writer/director Kenneth Lonergan won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and had also been nominated for Best Director.

Lucas Hedges was one of five nominees for the Best Supporting Actor statuette with Michelle Williams one of five vying for Best Supporting Actress.

She had only a tiny role so it was quite a surprise to see Michelle in the last five in her category.

However I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of Lucas Hedges. He’s got a big, big future.


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