"Manchester by the Sea" is quite a piece of art. Not because of the topic or even the acting, but mainly because of the way in which the story unfolds, the imagery and the music, and how all these elements combine. There is something very gentle, soft and light in the narration that takes the spectator away from the core drama of the movie. Clearly, director Kenneth Lonergan (“Analyze This” and “Gangs of New York”) does not like to overdo, and the result is an effortless movie flow with a nonetheless powerful impact. As a viewer, I found myself pleasantly caught in the spiral of events that mark what seems to be only a fragment of Lee Chandler's life.

The movie goes at a slow, but never boring pace, alternating past and present, leading the viewer to believe that nothing eventful can ever occur. This is what makes you let your guard down and find yourself unprepared for what is yet to come.

The opening scene

In the opening scene, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a quiet janitor executing his menial job without showing a sign of emotion but with a high intolerance to difficult customers. There is dry humour in his replies and a sense of irony which indicate that he accepts and also laughs at his situation. But why are we following this man’s life, what makes it and him so interesting? A movie with an unpredictable sequence and ending is already a good movie.

Lee is a man with trauma

Lee Chandler is a man with a trauma. Deep enough to make him unsocial, deep enough to make him not really want to live while still somehow hanging in there. He is not a void, shallow person who hasn’t quite made it in life. He is a man who had a lot and lost it all. But expressing strong, ravaging emotions is not the movie’s main concern.

It is one of those movies which leaves an after taste once it’s over, which makes you think. Also,one which makes you pull down your fire place screen if you have any – here is something you will never forget to do anymore.

This is a story of fire, of loss, survival, guilt, of life’s trials and bitterness: Of people and how they carry on.

Surprisingly, there is no madness. Raw, pure tragedy is avoided. There are rare outburst of emotions. We can only infer the drama, and we are occasionally diverted from it with sparkles of irony and comedy. What is interested is the concealment of emotions. And Casey Affleck beautifully lives up to this task, playing the cold and inexpressive, all the while heartbroken Lee.


But there are positive parts too. There’s reconstruction, there is moving on. There is life regenerating, taking over broken pieces and gluing them partly, superficially together. There are human connections, and they are strange, funny and depressing at the same time.

"Manchester-by-the-Sea" is set by the ocean.

The powerful imagery of cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes which break the non-linear plot suggest nostalgia, isolation, and emptiness. They intersperse wonderfully with flashbacks and memories and accentuate feelings as nature alone can, where words fail or are not required.

With a solid story, acting and overall great execution leading to 6 Oscars nominations (among which original screenplay alongside a personal favorite, “The Lobster”), “Manchester by the Sea” is not the typical Hollywood movie, and that is so refreshing to see.