Manchester By The Sea Blu-ray Review
Great acting carries the otherwise overrated “Manchester By The Sea.”
After an emotionally unavailable Boston maintenance man (Lee) learns that his brother (Joe) has passed away, Lee is shocked to learn that he has been named the guardian of his nephew (Patrick) due to the fact that Patrick’s mother is an alcoholic. The rest of the film finds Lee struggling with this responsibility, his traumatic past, the funeral arrangements for Joe, complications arising around Joe and Patrick’s living situations, and who exactly will be Patrick’s guardian.
As you may or may not have heard, “Manchester By The Sea” is not a happy film. It’s a true downer of a character study about grief and family. In other words, it’s the type of arty movie that you’d expect to find being fawned over by the Oscars. Now, to be clear, the movie is not without merit as it is well made and supremely well acted (I will get to that in a bit), but from a writing perspective, it leaves a lot to be desired. At 137 minutes, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s work feels decidedly excessive and over indulgent. It would be one thing if the movie was eventful or featured characters that developed and grew, but that is not the case here. This is a simple movie revolving a man who is haunted by his horrific past and, as a result, has cut himself off from others. He’s detached, he doesn’t want to connect with people, he gets in random bar fights, and he’s rude. Through the course of the film, you obviously find out why he is so damaged, but that depressing journey isn’t exactly very cinematic. Moreover, the movie doesn’t lead to much of anything. It feels like it is building to something given the central conflicts of the story, but the end result is very minor and unrewarding.
Equally problematic here is the overall presentation of the film. While easy to comprehend, the integration of flashbacks is frequently awkward and often comes from out of the blue. The choral score is also rather jarring and feels very out of place from the get go.
As I previously mentioned, the acting is what makes this movie period. A lot has been said about Casey Affleck’s performance as Lee and he certainly shines here. He takes a complex character who doesn’t show much in the way of emotion and somehow makes him come to life in a moving way. Michelle Williams only has a few scenes, but she is entirely memorable as Lee’s ex-wife Randi. Finally, there’s Lucas Hedges who was also nominated for an Oscar. Truthfully, I don’t quite get the praise for him. He gives a solid performance to be sure, but I wasn’t over the moon for it. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that his character seems less concerned about losing his father or who will be his guardian and more concerned about womanizing. Naturally, I don’t blame Hedges for how his character is written, but it still bugged me. With all of that said, his dynamic with Casey Affleck was one of the film’s stronger suits and it did showcase his talent as an actor.
Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? A sharp transfer that really showcases the picturesque location shooting.
Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The music, dialogue, and sound f/x sound crisp and clear.
* DVD copy and Digital copy.
* Lionsgate trailers.
* 3 deleted scenes.
* “Emotional Lives: Making Manchester By The Sea” contains film clips, interviews, character and story discussions, etc.
* “A Conversation With Director/Writer Kenneth Lonergan”- A fancy way of saying a commentary track. This one also includes content producer Peter Ventrella who questions Lonergan about everything from the story to the setting.
Overall Thoughts: “Manchester By The Sea” is the sort of film you would only watch once unless you are a sadist. I’d recommend seeking out Lonergan’s first and still best film “You Can Count On Me” instead.
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