Manchester By The Sea
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Manchester By The Sea

This movie is a miracle: a stunningly intimate masterwork that wrenches, but still leaves the heart brimming.

Kenneth Lonergan’s drama focuses on the Chandlers, a working class family from a northeast Massachusetts fishing village. We begin as Lee gets the terrible news. His older brother Joe has died and Lee must return to the town and people he loves and fears the most.

Because the plot reveals itself in delicate, onion-like layers, I don’t want to disclose too much of it here. Suffice it to say, there is a lot going on, much of it heartbreaking, all of it relatable. You don’t have to have lived through the exact circumstances of this story to find yourself riveted, laughing and crying at how vividly real so much of it feels.  Even scenes that don’t immediately look essential to the storyline sear into your heart. I’m thinking, in particular, of one almost tiny moment, when a local man reminisces about the storm that took his fisherman father’s life. It’s goosbumpy gorgeous, a scene you might see in theater pieces, but rarely given the time of day in modern movies.

As he has shown in his previous directorial efforts, Margaret and especially the great You Can Count on Me, Lonergan is as terrific with his actors as he is with his words. A grand cast nails scene after scene, led by a superb Casey Affleck. And while Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams lead an excellent supporting cast, I’d like to give special mention to Lucas Hedges, a young actor so at ease in front of the camera, you almost don’t even realize how extraordinary his work is here.

Among the ten credited producers are accomplished veterans and marquee names, Matt Damon and John Krasinski. All should be applauded for supporting a film as special as this, one with no special effects except the very real ones Lonergan and company bring to the screen.

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