Manchester by the Sea

Film, Drama
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Manchester by the Sea

Actor Casey Affleck joins the ranks of giants in a tremendously moving portrait of grief from American writer-director Kenneth Lonergan

That’s Manchester, Massachusetts, a small fishing community that’s the setting for this devastating tale of buried trauma from American director and playwright Kenneth Lonergan (‘You Can Count on Me’). Casey Affleck gives a complex, brooding central performance as Lee, a Boston handyman and caretaker – for all his quiet capability with a blocked toilet, you wouldn’t want to cross him. Affleck burns the screen in the early scenes, building up a portrait of a solitary existence: this is a man who is long past giving a shit about anything.

Why? That remains a mystery – for now. While you sense that Lee is the kind of person who doesn’t need more bad news, it arrives in the form of a call telling him that a heart attack has killed his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler, superb in flashbacks). As Lee drives up to the wintry town of his youth to make funeral arrangements, we begin to see what makes him ache. Once in Manchester, he learns that he’s been made the legal guardian of Joe’s son, seen in happier days fishing off the back off the family’s boat. Today, Patrick (Lucas Hedges) is a typical gobby teenager, juggling two girlfriends, a pissed-off hockey coach and a rock band.

But Lonergan’s film isn’t about rebounding as much as coping. That’s what makes ‘Manchester by the Sea’ so dark and courageous; it says that, for some people, there won’t be any moving on from grief. These sad people will walk into another day, perhaps with more openness and a nephew to bear the burden. For that honesty alone, almost unbearable yet expressed with rare poise, this movie is a profound, meaningful gift

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date: Friday January 13 2017
Duration: 135 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Screenwriter: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Michelle Williams
Casey Affleck
Kyle Chandler
Gretchen Mol
Lucas Hedges

Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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What an incredible film. Casey Affleck is absolutely tremendous as Lee, a man who has lost his family and is living a solitary life away from home. He is forced to return due to the death of brother and as a consequence face his former life. It's truly powerful, moving and poignant


Great film, amazing acting! Heart warming story with realistic characters. A must see!


Watched this movie on a plane so that may have affected my enjoyment of it - perhaps I would have given 5 stars if seen on the big screen. However I still really enjoyed it - it was well acted, and the sort of movie that made me think and stayed with me after I watched it. Sad, but in a subdued, depressed sort of way (if you like that sort of thing - which I do!).


This movie was really impressive. Well told story that kept you hooked in throughout the whole time. So I don't want to explain to much... I'm not a big movie crier, but this got me. 


This film is devastating. Every performance is perfect and depicts personal grief and depression beautifully. There are moments of humour throughout the film that are just impeccably timed and wonderfully portrayed. The music was the only downside and felt jarring against the landscape shots and intimate moments. I highly recommend this film but make sure you bring the tissues.


Casey Affleck deserves every award that will undoubtedly be thrown at him for his part in this quiet, forceful and intensely human film. A beautiful depiction of grief and compassion that walks a perfectly balanced line between the most difficult moments and the most humorous. I wish it didn't end so soon but I am glad to have been left guessing about the future of the delicate characters that I so quickly warmed to.


This is a brilliant film and I am really hoping that Casey Affleck win the best actor Oscar for his performance in this.

It starts of as Affleck being a handyman in a block of flats and he is very awkward with the residents and seems a bit rude.  His brother dies and he is named as guardian, which he is more than reluctant to do.  As the story unfolds, we get to see the background to why he is like he is, which highlights what a fantastic piece of acting it is.

It is a depressing story, but don't let that put you off going to see it.  I personally would vote for this as the best film Oscar.

A great film from Kenneth Lonergan, nominated in several categories for Academy Awards. And two well desrved Baftas given for original screenplay and best actor. What a pleasure to see high-quality, but not necessarily arthouse, cinema being recognised.

It is the third movie running that gives me great hope for the future of cinema – following “Paterson” and “Silence”. What a triple treat!

One critic (a friend, no names) is being slightly unjust to refer to a “incredibly. painfully slow” start. I thought it was interesting that although we could see that Casey Affleck’s character was clearly “damaged” it was clever not to give the game away too quickly and keep us wondering with little hints and nods. When we find out the true horror of his personal tragedy it is all the more overwhelming.

The sense of a small town community supporting its own was movingly conveyed and family dynamics were will well painted too.

Like Affleck’s moody and blank-eyed persona, Lucas Hedges’ does a superb job of keeping us reasonably sympathetic towards a teenage “I hate you all” girl chaser. A less skilful performance could have easily alienated us.

As with the other two movies mentioned a real treat to watch, unlike, in my view, the latest amazingly overrated “La La Land”. Just can't believe the adulation for an average but hardly award-worthy work.


A beautiful emotional rollercoaster of a film. It doesn’t give you the ending you want but that just adds to the appeal. It’s a no bullshit film. A heartfelt performance from Affleck and the cast. Captivating in its truth about grief.


I didn't know much about this movie coming in. At the time of watching which was a lazy Sunday trying to recover from a boozy lunch- it was a bad choice! At the time I would have given this 1*. However on reflection it is a good movie.

It is long and hard and very real. It takes a while for the story to develop which is possibly the way on conveying the difficulty of telling such a sad story. I do like the non hollywood ending which is closer to reality than most. I think this movie is the type I would hope the acting would get an Oscar for because the way the emotions were conveyed was brilliant. The natural scenes are great. 

You do have to be in a certain mood to watch this movie and the more I think about the movie the more brilliant it is. However, while watching the movie, it can get boring and confusing. But so is life! This movie is about reflecting the reality of something truly horrific happening. How life goes on after. 


This is very much a downer film.

It's something we don't get the chance to watch very often, grieving men. It takes quite awhile before they let you in. When they do, it's devastating. I didn't care for the ending, however it was probably true to the character rather than what I wanted to happen. If you go to see it, don't go alone and plan something to cheer you up after.

Every part in this excellent movie is played perfectly, all the main characters are developed to perfection. The pace is exactly right and the ending couldn't be bettered. Casey Affleck absolutely must win an Oscar for what he does with the lead role. When I saw this movie the entire audience sat right through the credits, we were all drained.

Hard to add much to what's already been said. Casey Affleck is just wonderful as the damaged younger brother who is forced to deal with the past when his older brother dies. Casey's face captures perfectly the bitter vulnerability of the role. The little details of everyday life are beautifully captured and the theme of a life being frozen by grief and depression is played out intricately as we wait to see if a thaw will come. It's grim viewing at times but also funny and uplifting. Casey is sure to win an Oscar and well deserved. Go see. 

Smouldering look at everyday bad-luck life in real America. Beautifully shot and acted, this film ignores the beauty of place to look at the multiple challenges faced by one man who faces shit in the workplace as well as his family life. Rewarding if bleak - and so much more my sort of film than La La Land. I think the two will battle it out for honours.

A really fine film. Death, we can't control it (mostly) and its consequences.  The grieving is observed very closely with with all the shades of grey.  There is no sentimentality and this finely acted film is underplayed emotionally and this is very powerful and haunting.  The director allows the audience time to come to their own conclusions.  Any film directed by this director should be seen.  It is magnificent, despite its bleakness.

Slowly wins the day in this finely paced, minutely observed and winningly acted drama. Casey Affleck deserves all the plaudits for doing so much with so little. 4/5 stars. The first 30 mins are slow, but the writer/director is building things up for some emotional smacks so stick with it. For more from me:


A fantastic film that contemplates the very nature of grief. Here, like in reality, grief isn't a smooth lineal experience. It's full of twists & turns, the haunting of the past, a lot of tears and unexpected laughs.


This really is a fantastic film. Casey Affleck is wonderful playing the part of Lee, guardian to his dead brother's son...although he didn't know he was guardian until his brother died. 

Every single shot...every scene....every word, was full of feeling and meaning, and it was a very, very deep film. I would absolutely recommend this!


Manchester-by-the-Sea is one of those films that leaves you feeling totally drained;it manipulates your feelings pulling you in so that you are running alongside as the story unfolds. Now, I don't mind crying at a film, in fact, it tells me the director must be doing something right, but this goes far deeper than mere tears trickling down one's cheeks. This film elicits hefty sobs and a small pain deep inside. Casey Affleck plays the slightly disfunctional uncle to Lucas Hedges' sixteen year-old character. Affleck manages to portray a withdrawn, rather pitiful man while at the same time displaying an attraction which is almost incomprehensible. Why would anyone want to be with a man who seems socially inept and, at times, quite dark? But they do. His wife, Michelle Williams, conveys the same pathos especially in the latter half of the film. Having separated, (no spoiler alert), she eventually realises that she does still love Lee. His life could become a healthy, worthwhile one again if he decides to re-establish a relationship with her. I found myself willing him to go back to her. Just do it ! Is Affleck able to become his nephew's guardian when his brother, (Hedges' father) suddenly dies? Could this relationship turn Lee's life around? While pondering these questions, we are given the snowy, biting-cold backdrop of Massachusettes all beautifully filmed.The music is equally all- encompassing with Albinoni's slow Adagio pulling you even deeper into the moment.  They really should have turned the heating up in the cinema! I was there in the snow with them pulling my coat ever closer. I would have given it to Lucas Hedges. Poor guy... he was freezing!

Bleak, tragic, mournful, devastating and the list could continue. I only hope my eyes weren't too swollen as I left the cinema.


I can't exactly say I enjoyed this very bleak film much, in fact I'm a bit traumatised by it and had two big glasses of wine after I saw it, but it's one of the best films I've seen in ages.

It's brilliant, intense and heavy; every scene is precisely and beautifully shot and I was completely absorbed in it the whole way through.

The performances by Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are phenomenal; their casting is spot-on.

Casey plays Lee, Hedge's uncle, who unexpectedly becomes his legal guardian after the teenage boy’s father dies. Apart from this new responsibility, Lee has to deal with the memories of Manchester-by-the-Sea- a place he thought he’d left behind. We get to see these memories in the form of flash-backs.

The story is about coming to terms- or not- with the past; growing up; family; suffering, love.

If this movie was a book I would've read it cover to cover without putting it down.


This is a hand crafted little gem of a film. It showcases a brilliant performance from Casey Affeck, who is supported by an outstanding cast.

This is an intense, raw drama which will draw you in. It cleverly doesn't take you though a developing plot, instead it makes you do the work. Instead of just letting the Affleck character (Lee) develop it makes you work at coming to terms with him, his responses, and actions.

The story is really about that old cliche - the "disfunctional family" & how & why, but is is not a cliche film and there are no cliche solutions.

Great work from Kenneth Lonergan (writer & director), his soundtrack perfectly matches the narrative, & his picture postcard location is a total joy, especially as it is so at odds with the narrative.

This is a very fine film, which will stay with you well past "the end".