Manchester by the Sea ★★★★½

EDIT: I decided to pull off a half star. Some time has passed, and thinking about this movie, it doesn't hold up as well as movies like La La Land or Moonlight do.

Before I start with my review for a movie, which to me is one of the most remarkable movies the 21st century has produced yet, I would like to share a little story with you. My uncle died in December 2012. He suffered from lung cancer, and although his death was really tragic (he was only 57 years old), it felt like some kind of release, because he and our family really suffered from his illness. Only seven days later, my aunt died. She died of a broken heart. When I heard these news, the biggest pain I have ever felt came over me. The days which had followed after those events were really dark, and I will never forget the pain me, my family and especially my three cousins were going through.

You need to know about this dark chapter of my life in order to understand why I felt such a strong connection to Manchester by the Sea and especially Casey Affleck's character, Lee Chandler. Lee is a person I can easily connect to. He is a introverted, very quiet kind of guy, he doesn't really know how to feel empathy, he has very low interpersonal skills, and he doesn't like people in general. These are character traits I would also attribute to myself. Still, Lee has a big heart. He cares for the people he loves, and although he suffers from a constant trauma, he is available for his nephew who really needs his support.

Lee simply feels like a real guy, and that's also what this movie feels like. It feels like the most real movie I have ever seen, because Kenneth Lonergan's screenplay is simply phenomenal, and the way we experience the journey Lee is going through is sensational. When we first meet him, it is hard to like him. He seems like a very harsh person who loves to spoil for a little fight. However, with several flashbacks we learn why Lee became the man he is. Lonergan places these flashbacks so subtle and brilliant at the same time, and it was great for me to see how my picture of Lee changed with every brief look back. Also, Lonergans direction is outstanding. His pictures are minimal but beautiful, Lesley Barber's brilliant score is exactly placed at the right time and place, and he really knows how to get the maximum value out of his actors.

Especially Casey Affleck. On my way home, I have thought long and hard on how to describe his performance. I can not describe it with adjectives like "brilliant" or "outstanding", and I can not simply call it "Oscar-worthy". Casey Affleck's performance is truly one of the greatest acting achievements I have ever experienced. He merged into Lee Chandler. He took all his life, his soul, every single one of his emotions and put it into his character, and you can simply feel his brokeness. He became this character, and that is something which can only be rarely seen in today's movie industry, and I'm really glad to be able to experience something like that. Of course, there is great support by the rest of the cast, and especially Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges and Kyle Chandler shine in every scene they appear, but Affleck simply stole the show. It was unbelievable.

Guys, I really do not hand out five star ratings deliberately, but what can I do? Manchester by the Sea is one of the greatest pictures recent cinema has produced, featuring an outstanding cast, one of the greatest performances I have ever experienced, a director and screenwriter on the peak of his creativity and a story that is so touching that I know, it will haunt me for a few days. To everyone who hasn't seen this yet, it's highly recommended from my side.

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