“Manchester By The Sea” a Downbeat Tale
By Skip Sheffield
“Manchester By The Sea” is a movie that makes me glad I left New England before it was too late.
In truth I had no part in the decision, as I was only seven years old when my parents bought their first house in Fort Lauderdale. Before that we spent summers in New England and winters in Florida. “Manchester” is the downbeat story of a guy who is stuck in coastal Massachusetts. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a divorced man with a menial job as custodian in the Boston suburb of Quincy, Mass. Lee is in danger of getting fired for mouthing off at a tenant when he gets a call informing him his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) is on the verge of death. Lee hops into his Jeep wagon and races to his home town of the fishing village of Manchester, but he is too late. Joe is already dead. Furthermore, Lee learns Joe had appointed him the guardian of Joe’s 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
Patrick is popular, a successful athlete and plays guitar in his band, Stentorian. Patrick sees Lee as a loser, and makes no bones about it.
“Why can’t you make small talk like every grownup in the world,” Patrick complains.
Lee can’t make small talk because he is bottled up and depressed. He visits his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and she tells him to stay away. He also encounters Patrick’s mother (Gretchen Mol), a recovering alcoholic now married to an evangelical Christian (Matthew Broderick in an uncredited role).
So when does the fun begin? It doesn’t. The strongest scene in the film is when Michelle Williams tearfully expresses her love for the ex-husband she could not stay with. Casey Affleck stoically listens. Only his eyes betray his anguish.
Ben’s younger brother is quite an actor. I am sure we will hear of him at Oscar time.