By Jay Hunter – The Awards Season is a tricky minefield to navigate. Sure as the sun will rise, there is a formula to win the Oscars, however every so often the Academy will be swept up by a movie with opposing tones, and your dramatic, bleak film – no matter how well performed – will undoubtedly fall by the wayside as the season goes on. Enter, Manchester by the Sea. A movie who’s buzz is second only to La La Land this year, but – much like Scorsese’s, Silence – is becoming increasingly suffocated by the misery it puts it’s characters and audience through.
When Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck) brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away, he is shocked to learn that he made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) an animated 16-year-old. This forces Lee to return to his home, Manchester by the Sea to care for Patrick, in turn he is forced to face his past in the town where he was born and raised.
If anything, Manchester by the Sea is a movie that feels like it’s trying too hard for an award. Every character we’re introduced to either has a dark secret that’s crippling their will to live, or a substance abuse problem, resulting in you watching a product as miserable as the year it was created in. There are shades of humour dabbed throughout the film, which is when the movie feels at it’s most human and even. It’s a movie that no doubt acts as an awards vehicle for Casey Affleck (as we’ve already seen), with the centrepiece reveal of his agony already being touted as one of 2017’s most pivotal and heartbreaking scenes. Ultimately Manchester by the Sea is a well-acted piece of cinema, that sometimes leans too hard on it’s harrowing crutch in search of admiration.