Whether it is “Gone Baby Gone,” or “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,” or even “Good Will Hunting,” Casey Affleck is an actor who never compromises for glamour or grandeur in his roles. He will look ugly, dress down or be the most unlikable of characters to preserve the authenticity of a movie’s script. I imagine good directors just let him loose and film him with whatever he comes up with on the spot. It would be a tribute to his talent to do so. Here, in this Best Picture nominee, he is incredibly moving and quietly unhinged. He’s excellent.
“Manchester By The Sea” is a heavy, dramatic script held together by a simple story. Affleck plays “Lee Chandler” who will probably be destined to endure one unspeakable tragedy after another for the rest of his life; hammered away until it seems there’s no way to ever recover from inner demons of guilt and sadness.
At best, his recently departed brother (the always reliable Kyle Chandler) blesses him with an opportunity by making Lee the guardian to his 16 year old son, Patrick (one of the best screen debuts I can remember from newcomer Lucas Heges; a doppelgänger for a young Matt Damon).
Patrick needs Lee, and Lee doesn’t know it yet, but about the only thing he needs is Patrick.
“Manchester…” takes its time to set up story and character and maybe that is its downfall. People get in their cars, they shovel snow, they get out of their cars, they shovel more snow. All this set up for a 2 hour and 15 minute film might handicap the pacing but I can’t think of a better way to improve upon its heart wrenchingly real narrative. The tragedy at the center of Lee’s turmoil is difficult to accept.
Michelle Williams as Lee’s wife is once again an amazing actor who finds her own unique method for a penultimate crying scene. She is underused. I would have liked to see more of her in this film.
“Manchester…” is nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actress. All well deserved but maybe not worthy of the awards. I think there were a few better nominees in each of these categories. Still, had it not been for the Oscar nods I probably wouldn’t have watched it. All I can say is, I’m glad I did.