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Manchester by the Sea


Stars: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick, Chloe Dixon, Tom Kemp, Tate Donovan, Kara Hayward, Anna Baryshnikov

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Another highly-touted Oscar contender and, for me, another disappointment. The slow, broody scenario introduces us to Lee (Affleck), a grouchy, short-fused janitor and handyman working and living in Boston, Massachusetts.

Taciturn Lee is full of pent-up fury and apt to start fist fights in bars at zero provocation. It wouldn't be fair to reveal the cause of his misery, as the revelation comes quite late in the film, but safe to say that the Lee we meet is not a likeable man, with no friends or family, save a blowsy, foul-mouthed ex-wife (Williams) he almost never sees.

We do see flashbacks to happier times, when Lee takes his bother Joe's young son Patrick out fishing. Still, when Joe (Chandler) dies from congestive heart failure, Lee is surprised to find himself made the now 16-year-old boy's (Hedges) guardian. With Joe's own ex-wife (Mol), an ex-alcoholic, out of the picture, there does seem no practical alternative, though Patrick is little happier about it than the morose Lee.

Patrick now has his own life, leads a band, and is having sex with two girls (Baryshnikov, Hayward) at once. Lee's decision to take him away from the harbour town of Manchester by the Sea (the real place has hyphens!) and back to Boston does not go down well.

A typically dogged and lived-in performance by Affleck may well bring him reward at Oscar time, and Williams is also good, but the film itself is far too long, and its other performances fairly ordinary. It also has annoyingly fake snowflakes and a string of tiresome, turn-off, colourless characters.

There's lovely, wintry photography, however, presumably in the actual location. See it for the acting, perhaps, but take a flask of hot coffee.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
138 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 08 Jan 2017