"Sad, Tragic Arthouse Tale"
What You Need To Know:
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is well acted, but the plot structure is static because the protagonist never really changes. Viewers do learn, though, that Lee suffered a devastating personal tragedy. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA contains abundant foul language. Also, Lee lets his nephew fool around with teenage girls. One scene informs viewers Lee considers his family Catholic, but his alleged faith offers no healing to help him move past the great tragedy he suffered. So, there’s nothing really redemptive about the movie MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.
(PaPa, HH, B, C, Ab, LLL, V, SS, N, AA, DD, M) Strong mixed pagan worldview where a devastating personal tragedy prevents a New England man from moving on with his wife, with strong humanist elements mitigated slightly by some light moral elements and light Christian elements, plus nominal (probably liberal) Catholic man looks down on strict Protestant evangelicals in one comment; at least 116 obscenities (many “f” words), 13 strong obscenities and 11 light profanities; man gets in several fights at bars, man cuts his hand when he smashes a bedroom window with his fist, and an accidental home fire kills three young children; strong depicted teenage sexuality is promoted as 16-year-old takes off most of his clothes with one girl a couple times before being interrupted, implied teenage fornication with another girl, teenager’s uncle really doesn’t seem to care about his nephew’s sexual escapades, and young husband keeps making advances toward his wife in bed during one scene, but she keeps begging off and resisting because she has a terrible cold; no explicit nudity, but teenage characters are stripped down to underwear in a couple scenes, so there’s only upper male nudity and a teenage girl in a bra; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking; and, uncle has become detached and mostly apathetic (including amoral) about his orphaned nephew’s wellbeing (uncle doesn’t want to get involved with anyone any more), and uncle can’t move past a really terrible personal tragedy that has occurred to him.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a character study of a divorced apartment maintenance man in Boston, who returns to his small Massachusetts hometown when his divorced brother dies, leaving a 16-year-old teenage son behind. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a sad, tragic art house movie, featuring a standout performance by Casey Affleck, that tells the unhappy story of a man, who just can’t move past a devastating family tragedy in his own life, despite his apparently nominal Catholic upbringing. This movie contains abundant foul language, and the protagonist lets his teenage nephew be promiscuous.
Thirtysomething Lee Chandler is a maintenance man working for four apartment complexes in Boston. His surly behavior toward some of the renters gets him in trouble with his boss. He also sometimes gets into minor fights at bars.
Lee gets news that his brother, Joe, has finally died of a heart attack after years of a terribly heart disease. Joe has left behind a 16-year-old son, Patrick. So, Lee returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to handle his brother’s funeral and look after Patrick.
However, when Lee learns his brother left him everything and wants him to be Patrick’s guardian, he balks at the responsibility. Slowly, as Lee learns to deal with the aftermath of his brother’s death, flashbacks reveal how a great personal tragedy broke up his marriage and transformed him from a happy uncle to a younger Patrick to the emotional wreck he is today.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a very well acted character study, but it’s filled with many “f” words and other foul language. For some reason, in recent years the Boston area seems to have surpassed New York City in the number of “f” words movie characters say. Apparently, this is a noteworthy cultural phenomenon. Also, the protagonist lets his teenage nephew be promiscuous with two girls. He even covers up for him with the girls’ parents. Furthermore, although Lee tells Patrick proudly in one scene that they’re Catholic, not Protestant, Christians, it’s abundantly clear neither Lee nor Patrick practice any faith at all, except for having a priest conduct the brother’s funeral. By the end of the movie, it’s also become clear that religion is absolutely no help in assisting Lee to recover from the great personal tragedy he has suffered. So, [SPOILER ALERT] the movie’s ending just shows Lee finding another guardian for Patrick so that Lee can return to Boston and live out his sad life.
There are claims among some critics that MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a “masterpiece.” However, a true masterpiece would show the protagonist undergoing at least some kind of change. Instead, when it comes to the protagonist’s character, the movie’s plot structure is just static. This doesn’t make for truly great cinema, much less a masterpiece.