Manchester by the Sea ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Manchester by the Sea effectively examines grief through the lens of a self-loathing handyman named Lee (Casey Affleck), as he copes with the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) while taking care of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) in the hometown where he experienced an unspeakable tragedy that ruined his life and his marriage. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan competently conveys Lee’s grief through his inability to think clearly, his frustration with driving, and the fights that he picks with strangers. Lonergan depicts the horrifying events that haunt Lee’s psyche through compelling strategically placed flashbacks and affecting operatic music that amplifies their intensity.

Despite all the things that Lonergan’s film does well though, its ending is a let down. Given that you spend over two hours suffering with Lee, it’s disappointing that his tale lacks catharsis. What’s frustrating is that Lee walks away from his nephew when the teen needs him the most, offering the excuse that he can never recover from accidentally setting the fire that killed his three children. While it’s understandable that losing his children would affect him for life, it’s agitating that he never even tries to get help or move on like his ex-wife has attempted to do. On top of that, the film’s story feels incomplete because it stops in a place where you’re not sure what’s next or where Lee and his nephew Patrick stand. Long story short: I wanted more payoff for emotionally committing to this movie, or at the bare minimum, more resolution on how things might be between Lee and Patrick in the future.