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Movie Review

Movie Review: 'Manchester by the Sea'


A funny thing about grief is how much time you spend wondering if you’re doing it right, and how much time you spend around other people who are wondering the same thing. Manchester by the Sea absolutely nails the confusion, frustration, and awkward weirdness that comes along with dealing with the untimely death of a loved one, maybe better than any movie I’ve ever seen.

When actor Casey Affleck is good, he’s great, and here he and his sad eyes are brilliant as Lee Chandler, a Boston handyman who returns to his seaside hometown to deal with the aftermath of his brother’s death from congestive heart failure. Lee is already no stranger to unbearable sadness, after the devastation of his previous life with his wife, played by Michelle Williams. Affleck somehow strikes a balance between being so beaten down he knows he’ll probably never get back up, and still finding a way to keep going because, well, life doesn’t stop. One scene between Affleck and Williams in which neither can even muster a coherent sentence is so extraordinary that it could very well win each of them an Oscar.

I know I’ve made this movie sound like a laugh riot, but the truth is, Manchester by the Sea actually is quite funny. Not belly-laugh funny, but unavoidably entertaining precisely because life really does keep going. It doesn’t care that we’re grieving, or that we feel like there’s no way to go on, because life is going on whether we like it or not-- which means, yeah, sometimes you can’t find your car, and sometimes you still get in stupid arguments with your teenage nephew over whether or not he can see his girlfriend. More than anything, Manchester by the Sea understands the strangeness, and the beauty, and the unpredictability of life, even in the face of real, true, deep grief. Or, maybe even because of it.