Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Manchester by the Sea film review

I went to see this film at the Leeds/Bradford Odeon with my friend Karen.

IMDB says: A depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.


In this Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York, Analyze This) written and directed film Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone) stars as Lee Chandler is tasked by his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler: The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty) to look after his son Patrick (Lucas Hedges: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom) after his death, which involves going back to the town where personal tragedy struck years before.  He struggles with the decision of whether he can step up, as memories crowd him, he has to deal with his brothers ex-alcoholic ex-wife Ellie (Gretchen Mol: Donnie Brasco, Rounders) and new fella Jeffrey (Matthew Broderick: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Lion King) plus seeing his own now pregnant ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams: My Week with Marilyn, TVs Dawson's Creek).

From the flashback beginning, we see Lee bonding with Patrick as a young boy (Ben O'Brien in his first film) through to the scenes where the reason for his depression and all round abrasive character comes from, we are given a no-holds barred emotional view of a man struggling to cope.  Strong performances from the main characters help gel this drama that has less of a plot than a snapshot of moments in his life.  Even the bare chill of the weather in the town add to the feeling of despair as he tries to reintegrate not only into society but back into a family he has deliberately left behind.  It is tough viewing as it deals with grief, depression and alcoholism with only light touches of humour expertly handled by Hodges as he 'plays' his Uncle with the deftness that only a hormonal teenager can.

Casey Affleck and Declan Baldwin in Manchester by the Sea (2016)

A slice of real life.                                                    7/10

Trivia: The town was called Manchester until 1989, when resident Edward Corley led a highly controversial campaign to formally change its name to Manchester-by-the-Sea. The action was passed by the state legislature that year. The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2014 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. Matt Damon was initially set to direct and star in the film. Back in 2011, Damon, concerned about Kenneth Lonergan's 'horrible limbo', wanted to do something nice for his friend. So he sat in Lonergan's Manhattan apartment and pitched him an idea for a script about a New England handyman who ends up with custody of his dead brother's teen son - a story Damon thought would be right up Lonergan's dark alley. The idea for Manchester by the Sea actually was hatched by John Krasinski. Krasinski shared his nascent pitch with Damon over dinner in 2011 during the filming of The Adjustment Bureau (in which Damon co-starred with Krasinski's wife, Emily Blunt). They actually grew up a few bus stops from each other in Massachusetts - Damon in Cambridge, Krasinski in Newton. Damon liked Krasinski's idea so much, he considered not only starring in the film but also making it his directorial debut. They wasted no time heading to New York to pitch Lonergan. Embroiled in his Margaret troubles (the film was being held up from release by a lawsuit filed by producer Gary Gilbert, who was demanding a shortened re-edit that Lonergan was refusing to make) and committed to other stage projects, it took Lonergan a couple of years to get a first draft written. By then, Damon's schedule had filled up and he'd had second thoughts about directing the project, although he still wanted to star in it. Lonergan, meanwhile, finally had seen movement on Margaret (the film had a limited release in 2011; the court case was settled in 2014) and was starting to think about stepping behind a camera again. "He came back with this 150-page draft. It was too long, but it had everything that was in the movie." Damon urged Lonergan to make Manchester by the Sea his next directing job. Even with Damon still attached to star and produce, financing was hard to come by. And then, another blow: Damon had to drop out as the lead because of a slew of other commitments that would have delayed production for years. He recruited childhood friend Casey Affleck to take his place.

Casey Affleck and Stephen Henderson in Manchester by the Sea (2016)

#ManchesterByTheSea #Odeon #CaseyAffleck #MichelleWilliams #LucasHodges

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