Manchester by the Sea (2016)


Critic Consensus: Manchester by the Sea delivers affecting drama populated by full-bodied characters, marking another strong step forward for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan.


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Movie Info

After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 16-year-old, and is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to a world without him.

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Casey Affleck
as Lee Chandler
Kyle Chandler
as Joe Chandler
Lucas Hedges
as Patrick
Matthew Broderick
as Elise's Second Husband
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Critic Reviews for Manchester by the Sea

All Critics (320) | Top Critics (48)

This is about life as it is lived in the real world, with unassuageable pain, loose ends untied, life lessons unlearned. Life with no narrative closure.

Jan 12, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Unforced acting couples with a nuanced, insightful script to tell a story that, although seemingly simple, is achingly complex.

Dec 8, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The sadness of "Manchester by the Sea" is the kind of sadness that makes you feel more alive, rather than less, to the preciousness of things.

Dec 7, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Affleck is magnificent, but the movie is something less than that, because it can't completely overcome some built-in challenges. Even so, Manchester by the Sea deserves honors for being so different, and for working on the mind in a particular way

Dec 6, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Its initial enigma seems to need no explanation; yet, once deciphered, the film does not falter but moves only deeper into the emotional territory it charts.

Dec 2, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

It's painful and tragic, yet it's cut with elements of humor and laughter. Just like life.

Dec 2, 2016 | Rating: A | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Manchester by the Sea

Started off really well, but gets long and drawn out, and honestly I liked the character more when he was just a grumpy bugger before the past trauma is revealed. I watched about half (and it's over two hours long). Michelle Williams is underused. It's a well made movie, I can understand the praise, but my copy was on loan and I needed to return it, but didn't have enough interest to renew it.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


Manchester by the Sea is a sensitive character study that feels profoundly human and finds an enviable balance between drama and humor. Full review on filmotrope. com

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Manchester by the Sea is like a mournful symphony gently guided under the masterful direction of its conductor. The adagio pace of the film unfolds as a contemplative composition. At 2 hours 17 minutes, it's leisurely pace can tax the viewer's patience, but the rewards are great. It's a work marked by the modulation of sensitivity as we witness an evolution of poignant discussions. Happy, sad, angry - our undulating emotion crescendos with a heartbreaking conversation. The account ultimately continues on to the gentle sublime cadence. This is a movie about self-discovery. As such, we learn more about our character as the chronicle develops. It's that gradual reveal of the narrative that keeps the audience captivated. Lee isn't noticeably that much different at the end than he was at the beginning. Yet our appreciation for this man has developed. It's an ending that plays out like life. This saga isn't finished but we understand so much more now than we did when we started. I was enriched by the ride.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer


As Oscar season arrives, you can always expect a film to appear where it wants to throw its weight around and get its hands dirty by delivering a downbeat drama where the writing is empathetic and the actors can really show off their chops. Manchester By the Sea is that sombre type of Oscar bait film but to think of it as solely that, is to miss it's true depth and beauty. Plot: Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a Boston janitor who lives his life as a loner. One morning, he receives a phone call that his brother has died from a sudden heart attack. As a result, he returns to his hometown where he finds out that he's been trusted with the guardianship of his 16-year-old nephew. Lee rejects the responsibility while being back home begins to unearth a dark and tragic secret that caused him to leave in the first place. Kenneth Lonergan is a well respected playwright and screenwriter in the Hollywood circle but he's actually directed less than a handful of films - three to be exact. His debut You Can Count on Me in 2000 was critically acclaimed and even managed a couple of Oscar nominations - including one for Lonergan's screenplay. However, it took him years before he could get his next film completed. This film in question was the underrated and overlooked Margaret. It was finished in 2007 but didn't get a release until 2011 due to lawsuits surrounding the final cut of the film. Such nonsense could have forced Lonergan to give up entirely and that's exactly what his friend Matt Damon was thinking. As result, Damon approached him with an idea that he and John Krasinski had come up with. The result was Manchester By the Sea. Sadly, Damon had to drop the lead due to prior commitments and the part went to Casey Affleck instead. Who, in hindsight, turns out to be perfect for the role. Much of Affleck's character is shrouded in mystery and that's the driving force behind Lonergan's screenplay. It's the ambiguity and air of secrecy that holds your attention but throughout the earlier part of the film we are given snippets of information. When the revelation is actually made and it becomes clear why Lee is so reclusive and withdrawn, it's absolutely devastating and changes the narrative and motivation of his character considerably. For the most part, it's a quietly affecting drama. It doesn't play its hand too forcefully, instead relying on its moments of emotive power to develop naturally. It focuses on bringing dignity to the lives of everyday people and fully relates the heartache in looking grief and sorrow in the face and finding love and responsibility in their place. Although it's sounds depressing, Lonergan fills it with a lot of dry humour and the entire cast are excellent; Kyle Chandler only features in flashbacks but he brings a really strong paternal presence and, despite appearing high in the film credits, Michelle Williams actually features very little. Although you wouldn't think so, such is the power of her performance in a few short scenes. Ultimately, though, this is Affleck's film. I'd heard a lot of positivity surrounding his award winning work here and I have to admit that the praise is justified. The thing is, on the surface it doesn't look like he's doing very much at all but there are many subtle layers to his performance and to his understanding of this afflicted and tortured character. It's a masterclass in understatement. He allows Lee to reveal himself naturally (and quietly). Much like his performance in Jesse James, Affleck does very little yet says so much. It's hard not to see him win an Oscar for this. Manchester By the Sea is a slice of life where the characters are meticulously drawn and the small town itself plays a major role. It possesses real emotional depth and with a leisurely pace and a lengthy running time, it's a big ask from Lonergan for you to invest in these people. But if you do, you'll be paid dividends and he keeps good on that promise. Mark Walker

Mark Walker
Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

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