There’s nothing quite like watching a cold movie in the winter. And Manchester by the Sea is cold in several regards. Kenneth Logerman‘s buzzed about film tells the story of Lee (Casey Affleck), a janitor who returns home after learning that has brother has died. But that’s the simplistic, spoiler-free version. Lee is a complex, beautifully imagined and perfectly performed character. We get to see Affleck navigate Lee’s past and present, and Logerman’s script and direction make flashbacks as seamless as possible. They are touching, often suspenseful, never cheesy or appearing to be trying. The cyclical nature of many, and the subtle similarities such as Lee’s yellow shirt then and now, get even better with each viewing. I can say that since I’ve seen Sea twice now.
I left (both times) with zero complaints, other than Lee heats up two slices of pizza for two whole minutes. And is that really a complaint? In addition to Affleck, the other players do not disappoint. There are exciting, short moments with Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and even Matthew Broderick but perhaps the best is Lucas Hedges, who gives essentially-orphaned teen Patrick all the heart and angst a human could possibly muster. Mix that in with gorgeous scenery and perhaps the best script of the year and Logerman’s created what many have called a “masterpiece.” Can’t blame them.
The film shows us his ability to impeccably showcase a range of emotions in a way that feels all too real. In truth, a lot of Sea is devastatingly too real. The dialogue mirrors life so well that you may find yourself experiencing what’s best described as deja vu. You might ache or laugh remembering the emotional weight of an experience, curious as to what life’s good decisions are, what the right person would do. Yes, Sea is a story that won’t blow your mind or take you to a magical place, but it’s a reminder of how authentic cinema can be.