Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea (Review)

I’ve come to my biggest conundrum of the awards season so far: “Manchester by the Sea” or “Moonlight”? Instantly when watching “Moonlight” you see the struggle that Little faces at the early stages of his life. “Manchester by the Sea” holds its suspense and its viewers until the credits start rolling. Both are well-written, without question. However, I’ve found myself going back and forth on which one I like the most.

Casey Affleck plays a janitor living a small and quiet life in Quincy, Massachusetts. The rest of his family and former life (we come to discover) lives in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Unsettling news of his brother’s death brings him back to his old life. Without any spoilers, it’s evident why he wants nothing to do this life.

While the storytelling is key and definitely my favorite part of this film, I’m shutting my lips and urging you to go see this film. It’s beautifully tragic, it’s surprisingly humorous at times, but most importantly, it deals with grief in a way that could not have been depicted in any better way.

This is in large part due to the cast that really makes me go back and forth between it and “Moonlight”. Casey Affleck, in my opinion, trumps his brother Ben in any film I have seen between the two of them. The internal and external demons he is faced with throughout the film make you wonder why he didn’t have more moments like the one in the police station. It’s extremely painful to watch him visit ghosts and memories from his past as he encounters this new round of grief.

You cannot have this film without Lucas Hedges. His bravery and his instant desire to move on is something that is questionable but admirable at the same time. He wants to live his own life in the town he was raised in and to continue his father’s work. He brings comedic relief to the viewers and to Affleck’s character. Hedges keeps Affleck on his toes 24/7 – mostly due to his demanding high-school lifestyle – which I believe is what ultimately saves Affleck from a downward spiral.

Michelle Williams, whose appearance is brief and will make sense why when you see the film, plays the ex-wife to Affleck. Her decisions and her lifestyle made me furious at first. But towards the end of the film when there’s this scene between Affleck and herself, there’s an overwhelming sense of sympathy you feel for both characters. I’m still debating her choices, but I think this is the revolving theme that makes itself clearly apparent at the end: everybody deals with grief differently.

There are about a dozen different decisions you’re left to analyze at the film’s end, and I think that is the first question anyone will ask you after you see the film. “Do you think it should’ve ended differently?” In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t change one thing. Not only for the film’s sake, but personally as well. You want to question so many things in life, even with the full story, but you just can’t. You have to live and let live. Beautifully tragic, but that’s life.

Watch the trailer for “Manchester by the Sea” below!

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