After the painful journey to get his last feature Margaret onto the big screen, it is no surprise that Kenneth Lonergan waited five years since that film’s release to venture into his project. Manchester by the Sea is his latest film, and it is even more audacious than his 2011 epic.
The film interweaves two storylines. The first (and primary) follows Lee Chandler’s journey back to his hometown after the death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler). There he must care for Joe’s teenaged son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) while assimilating back into the community he abandoned years earlier. The second narrative gives viewers a window into the town of Manchester while Lee was a resident and Joe still alive. In this narrative the Lee’s marriage to Randi (Michelle Williams) is the focus, and the reason he left the town is revealed.
Though peppered with tender moments of humour, Lonergan’s film is utterly devastating. Manchester by the Sea is the kind of film that weighs on the viewer for days. Throughout, Lonergan seems to continually be trying to top himself in the tragic. The sheer devastation on display would perhaps be unbearable if not for the heart Lonergan has written into the film. Manchester by the Sea‘s operatic tragedy is perfectly executed by all involved, making for a moving and unshakeable filmgoing experience.