I don't read a lot of fiction, but, to me, "Manchester By The Sea" views like a great novel. It takes time to unfold the story and the characters. The flashbacks are carefully placed to allow you to understand what was going on then and is going on now. Indeed, this superlative film is peeled back slowly like an onion. And the trip is one worth taking.
This movie showed up with a lot of advance Oscar buzz. In this case, it's totally warranted as there are performances and work here worth nominating or awarding. Truly, at the center of the outstanding production, is the script and direction by Kenneth Lonergan, who is sure to get at least an Academy Award for the screenplay.
Admittedly, you might look at the trailer and think that "Manchester By The Sea" will be, no pun intended, no day at the beach. The story looks sad. The scenery, in the dead of a New England winter, appears desolate and grim. Well, yes and yes. But, if you sit through the two plus hours with these characters, you will be rewarded. Because, in reality, this is life itself. You don't always have good days. And, regardless of where you live, there are cloudy days.
Sure-to-be-nominated-for-Best-Actor Casey Affleck plays Lee, an under-achieving building janitor in Boston. Why is he an under-achieving janitor in Boston? Well, you slowly find out and it is a harrowing tale. Suffice it to say, Lee gets the news that his older brother, played by the always welcome Kyle Chandler, has died of a rare heart disease. Lee quickly discovers that his brother entrusted him with the care and feeding of his 16-year-old son Patrick.
Um, that's all you need to know and that's all I will tell you. To give you more details would be to ruin the impact of the movie. I recently read a blog review of Warren Beatty's "Rules Don't Apply." The reviewer gave away everything that happens right down to the ending, thereby ruining the film for anybody else. I won't say more about "Manchester By The Sea" because you need to experience it for yourself.
Along with Affleck's stellar performance (yes, there is an Affleck who can act), you'll want to pay attention to the sure-to-be-nominated Best Supporting Actor Lucas Hedges as Patrick and the sure-to-be-nominated Best Supporting Actress Michelle Williams as Lee's ex-wife. Lonergan will certainly score Oscar noms for direction and writing. The film will certainly get cited for Best Picture.
Are you following me here? Don't get scared away by the opening grimness of the tale. You will get it paid back by the end of "Manchester By The Sea."
LEN'S RATING: Four stars.
Dinner last night: Leftover beef tenderloin and veggies.