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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

by British Film Critic

The plot of Manchester By The Sea is one that slowly, methodically unravels at a very patient pace, maintaining a linear narrative, one that’s periodically intersected with expertly placed flashbacks. For a while, on the surface, it feels like a rather cold film, not unlike someone you’re close to, someone you know has been through it, but someone that doesn’t quite feel comfortable to let you in just yet. But when you are let in, you are hit with what’s been troubling them like a ton of bricks – anyone who’s seen the film knows precisely what I’m talking about.

I honestly haven’t encountered a film with this much honesty, this much untamed emotion and this much vulnerability with its characters since Magnolia – absolutely everything is on show, but not in a way that feels invasive, but moreso inclusive, almost as if the film builds a consensual relationship with you and each of its characters across its runtime. It’s unafraid to show its characters at their absolute worst, in situations that make no effort to gain your favour, all as a means to expose you, as honestly and sincerely as possible, to the lives and turmoils of these people, who feel almost too real to have just been formulated on a page.

Character is at the centre of everything with Manchester By The Sea, and Lonergan really couldn’t have picked a better group of performers to play these roles: Affleck, Williams, Hedges, Chandler – everyone is bringing their absolute a-game, and the film would not have been anywhere near the same without them. It’s not often that I come across films that provide as deep and as dense an emotional gut punch as was provided with Manchester By The Sea, so I will not be taking this film for granted, and if you’re one of those who’s yet to see it, as I was just a week ago, do not take it for granted either.