Manchester by the Sea

Michelle Williams, left, and Casey Affleck perform in a scene from Manchester by the Sea.


A HUGE thank you to the North of Superior Film Association (NOSFA) for their screening of Manchester by the Sea. NOSFA does this community a great service by providing film-goers with terrific selections from the best releases of each year, most of which are a welcome reprieve from the usual standard blockbuster fare on display at the local theatre. A huge thank you to the incredible crowd as well. The crowd at the 6:30 p.m., Thursday night screening rivalled the crowds I usually encounter on the opening night of a Star Wars film. The Thunder Bay film-going community is passionate and eager and supportive (the giant line of freezing film geeks huddled outside the theatre in sub-zero temperatures is proof of this), and further legitimizes the incredible work NOSFA carries out. As always, NOSFA had great crowd control and efficiently got all these folks out of the cold and into their seats in a timely manner.

As far as the film Manchester by the Sea, I was astounded. Not only by the incredible performances, but also by the authenticity of the story, the character’s interactions and the emotionality of the film.

Kenneth Lonergan directed this film with a light hand, allowing the performances of his actors to take centre stage. The editing and pacing of the film were brilliant, and the non-linear fashion of storytelling elevated this film from typical drama to something special.

Casey Affleck (brother of current Batman Ben Affleck) was absolutely incredible. His subdued performance showed a man haunted by the terrible grief and guilt of a past tragedy, barely keeping it together, when another tragedy makes him guardian of his late brother Joe’s 16-year-old son. Joe was played in flashbacks by Kyle Chandler, who is a terrific actor as well. Lucas Hedges plays Lee’s nephew Patrick in a performance that never feels like a performance. Michelle Williams has a small but powerful role as Lee’s ex-wife Randi. Although she didn’t have much screen time, I can see why she is receiving critical acclaim for her performance.

This film was just so real and authentic. It is surprising to think of the words spoken by the characters on screen as dialogue, because it never felt like actors delivering lines. It truly felt like I was on this emotional journey with the characters, watching uncle and nephew come to terms with their grief and loss, while learning to come to necessary compromises in their relationship. The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but in my opinion it added to the feeling of this movie simply playing out like a window into these people’s lives.

It’s important to note, however, that the recent resurfacing of serious allegations made against Affleck have had little effect on the accolades Hollywood is willing to shower him with. Yes, his performance in this film was terrific and yes, he is a great actor, but when a film like Manchester by the Sea has such a high likelihood of bringing home an Oscar, it becomes very clear where Hollywood stands when it comes to issues of violence against women and sexual harassment. Just ask Meryl Streep about the standing ovation she gave Roman Polanski.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at

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