Some films can get away with being all about a performance in-place of any action or anything of excitement. Manchester by the Sea relies on a powerhouse performance by Casey Affleck and this seems to work very well to begin with. Affleck’s character is a man broken, disillusioned and lost, which creates scenes which will raise a smile, as he puts a lady in her place about a leak and makes his position about his job quite clear to his boss. It has the satisfaction of watching a man say the words you’d never say yourself.
This performance continues throughout and Casey Affleck is more than able to handle the role. The scenes which lay-out why his character is so broken are captivating, particularly one of heartbreaking tragedy and the flashbacks show a slightly lighter character full of life, making Affleck’s Lee Chandler so much more tragic.
Pair him with two other great performers and you have the chemistry needed for a captivating film. The movie is focused on Affleck’s insular Lee becoming legal guardian to a bold, abrasive teenager, played with confidence by young star Lucas Hedges. The scenes which pair the two together are the better of the movie, balancing humour and tragedy in good measure.
Arguably the most dramatic performance goes to the third billed actress, Michelle Williams. She doesn’t feature much but when she does it has real impact and makes for some of the more difficult moments in the film. One scene when Williams and Affleck confront each other after a long separation is the key moment in the whole movie and Williams does more with this than some actresses manage in a whole movie itself.
That is one of the major problems though. There are key scenes and moments which will stand-out and resonate with people but these come few and far between. Manchester by the Sea has a monster run-time which will bore many as you are forced to watch Affleck sulk through many of his scenes. The moments when drama is required force the actor to step-up the performance but many more of the scenes seem to require him to sulk his way through as others try desperately to cope with him.
You wouldn’t mind this if Manchester by the Sea did something different that other movies haven’t touched upon before. Unfortunately, a lot of Manchester by the Sea has been done before, with tragedy, depression and more obviously an odd-couple thrown together, being some of the central themes. Manchester by the Sea tries too hard to play this for pure drama when other films managed to make the same themes much more entertaining.
Overall, three great performances can’t save a film with a snail-pace plot. There are some great scenes to match Affleck, Hedges and Williams but between each of these is a drab, dull plod as characters slowly tolerate each other. Family forced together at times of tragedy is not new and this movie doesn’t do it well.
Rating – 2.5
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