Manchester By The Sea Review: Casey Affleck Finally Steps Out Of Ben’s Shadow

Forever in the shadow of Ben Affleck, this may be Casey’s time to shine with the Academy.

Casey Affleck alongside Lucas Hedges.
Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea Alongside co-star Lucas Hedges.

Manchester By The Sea
137 minutes (15)

2017 may only be a couple of days old but a contender for the year’s best drama and best on-screen performance may have already been found in Manchester By The Sea and the central turn of Casey Affleck.

Set against the backdrop of the Massachusetts fishing community, Kenneth Lonergan’s Bostonian drama centres on a troubled man’s attempts to look after the teenage nephew he has been entrusted with following his brother’s death.

Packing plenty in the way of an emotional punch, Affleck’s performance is pivotal to the film’s success, with the quiet and seemingly lost Lee as complex a central figure as you are likely to find; funny, frustrating and, as viewers soon learn, tragic in equal measure.

At times, Affleck’s performance feels like a hark back to the 1970s dramas Bob Rafelson with Casey channeling something of Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces.

So long left in the shadow of brother Ben, even with stellar turns on movies like Gone Baby Gone, this is undoubtedly Casey’s film with the lesser known Affleck offering up an emotive but understated performance completely in keeping with his character’s origins.

That’s not to say he isn’t ably helped by a superb supporting cast from his late brother, played by the ever-reliable Kyle Chandler, who haunts the movie through a series of flashbacks director Lonergan uses to move us closer to the tragic tale at the heart of Lee’s sad life.

Youngster Lucas Hedges, as Lee’s new charge, injects some humour alongside the emotions on display, enjoying genuine on-screen chemistry with Affleck which makes their relationship awkward, at times hilarious and completely real.

Yet it’s the scenes between Affleck and his character’s ex wife, played by Michelle Williams, which really pack an emotional punch and provide the true heart of the film.

Williams is no stranger to emotional dramas, but there’s a realness and vulnerability to her performance that balances perfectly against Affleck’s largely stoic turn, with the pair’s encounters building to an emotional encounter that ranks among cinema’s very best.

As complex a drama as you are likely to find in the mainstream movie world this year, to describe Manchester By The Sea as simply a drama does not do justice to the complex, multilayered and stunningly cinematic story created by Lonergan, fives years on from his last film the criminally underrated Margaret.

Beautifully shot on location in Manchester by the Sea, the film’s stark, coastal landscape tells it’s own story of families, better times and hope for the future.

Moving, funny and emotionally charged throughout, Manchester By The Sea is a film about family, loss and saying goodbye.

Nominated for an array of Golden Globes and likely to attract plenty of Oscars buzz, it’s also essential viewing and the first must-see drama of 2017.

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