Raw, emotional and utterly heart-breaking, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a devastating exploration of grief and redemption

Kenneth Lonergan’s highly-anticipated third film MANCHESTER BY THE SEA chronicles the effects of loss and grief in this devastating drama about one man’s painful return to his hometown.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA follows the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an anti-social outcast who works as a janitor in Boston. When his beloved older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away, Lee is forced to return home to Manchester-by-the-Sea to deal with his brother’s affairs. Rocked by contact with his estranged ex-wife (Michelle Williams) and the revelation that Joe has named him sole guardian of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee is forced to confront the tragic events from his past and his own private torment.

Raw, emotional and utterly heart-breaking, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a devastating exploration of grief and redemption. Every aspect of the film seeks to make an emotional connection with the audience with Lonergan once again demonstrating his incredible skill for capturing emotional honesty.

The story is told in a non-linear form with a series of flashbacks slowly revealing Lee’s personal tragedy and the unfathomable inner turmoil he cannot return from. The simple yet exquisitely-written script is raw, honest and profoundly human, and there isn’t a single line, character or scene that is wasted, no matter how small.


Casey Affleck delivers a career defining performance as Lee. His under-played and under-stated performance is multi layered and deeply complex, relying heavily on emotions told through mannerisms and physical reactions, rather than spoken exchanges.

Elsewhere, Michelle Williams delivers a powerful and emotional performance as Lee’s ex-wife Randy, as does Lucas Hedges as Lee’s teenager nephew Patrick, as the petulant teen with a higher than average innate intelligence.

In a bold decision by Lonergan, the film’s resolution offers no real conclusion but instead opts for a more authentic and realistic outcome, tinged with pervasive sadness. Jody Lee Lipes’ excellent cinematography is also worth a mention, capturing the cold New England setting with elegance and haunting beauty.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is not always an easy watch but is one of the most visually eloquent films in recent cinema. A touching story about grief, family, fatherhood and coming-of-age with stellar performances from both Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.

4 out of 5 stars

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA makes its Headline Gala at the 60th BFI London Film Festival on 8 October and is released in UK cinemas on 13 January 2017.