Manchester By The Sea – 9/10

‘I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it. I’m sorry…’

Casey Affleck has proven himself to be a good actor. Critically acclaimed roles in films such as Gone Baby Gone, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and The Assassination of Jesse James have ensured a positive reputation for Ben’s younger brother. But therein lies the rub. Whilst the younger Affleck has enjoyed praise for his ability, it could be argued that he has never stepped out of his big brothers shadow… Until now.

Manchester By The Sea is a stunning character study and a meditation on grief, loss and regret. Affleck’s Lee Chandler could have walked straight out of a Hemingway novel with his clipped sentences and no nonsense demeanour. Indeed, the influence of Hem is strong throughout the film. Hemingway is an influence rather than an inspiration however and Manchester By The Sea is undoubtedly a unique work, lovingly crafted by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan.

Lonergan has created a whole world in the small community of Manchester and the awe inspiring landscape feels as much of a character as Lee Chandler himself. The small town grief and gossip is palpable and adds to a realism that is present and tangible throughout. The supporting cast are great, especially Michelle Williams who is surely one of the most consistent actresses in the world, but it is Affleck who really carries the film. It is an astonishing, stark performance that deserves to go down as a career best for him. Manchester By The Sea is about as real as cinema gets and while it is stained with tragedy, there are still moments of brevity peppered throughout the film, especially from Lucas Hedges, who is outstanding as Affleck’s nephew and legal responsibility.

In a time when TV has largely replaced cinema as the go to medium for the very best quality, Manchester By The Sea is a timely reminder that when cinema is at its most powerful, it is untouchable. An almost perfect movie.

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