Review Manchester by the sea (2016)

Manchester by the sea got 6 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. I hope in the next few days, this film will win some golden statues because it has many hidden gems.

The first thing I have to mention in this movie is Cassey Affleck. He is Ben Affleck’s siblings but his acting style is different. In him, I feel the raw, unsharpened, like nature, which fit perfectly in this role. Emptiness is hard to show, usually actor/actress would stare at blank or gaze vacantly. But in this movie, Cassey has shown the emptiness by his characteristic, cold quiet and even a little bit soft outside and outburst, angry, violent inside. Through the movie, I can see the desperation in every Cassey’s movement, in contrast with him in the past: warm, funny, talkative. He successfully shows the big emotional change when people suffer traumas (and in this case is the dead of his children)

The next spotted actor is Lucas Hedges. The 21-year-old boy has shown his talent via this movie after being invisible in some big movies (Moonrise Kingdom, The Budapest Hotel, Labor Day). Lucas succeeded in portraying a young boy, who suffer from the death of dad, but try to stay incredibly calm and still manage to has 2 girlfriends. All the thing he’s done, just to hide his pain and loneliness; But it is not completely hidden, it is only shown when Lee and Patrick were together. And this is where Lucas’s talent helps viewers understand the uncle – nephew relationship. All the eyes and gestures can show better than any words. And sometimes, the mismatched conversations between them are funny, which reduces the dramatic of the movie.


Even though Michelle Williams didn’t appear much in this movie, but her acting is still so great. This is her 4th nominations (after Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn). She is quiet, weak, easy to cry, and later on, after I ‘ve watched half the movie, I understood that she felt guilty too. Her eyes showed all of her sadness even when she smiles. She always reluctant to mention about her pregnancy and her new baby, because they remind her of the past, and she had to fight with herself, in anger, in grief.

The next hidden gem is the movie production. The original screenplay was written by Kenneth Lonergan, and he is also the director. 17 years ago, “You can count on me” was his biggest hit, nominated by the Academy, won the Sundance 2000 Grand Jury Prize, NY Film Critics Circle, etc, but then he disappeared. After a long time, he came back, with the simple plot: a broken man returned to the scene of the past trauma. With the description on IMDB, I was reluctant before watching this movie, because I’m not sure how the story will tell and how it can attract me. Lonergan built the movie as the puzzle, which contains random pieces from the present and the past. Each time 2 pieces were merged together, I can feel my emotions and Lee’s levitate to the next level. After researching a bit, I found out that the production team of “Manchester by the sea” has Matt Damon. Matt Damon has worked with Cassey Affleck since 1997 in “Goodwill Hunting” and he understood that Cassey can help the movie levitate the emotions’ viewers as the way he imagined.


One of the most important thing in a movie which movie critics usually forget is music. Lesley Barber’s choice of music for Manchester by the sea is perfect. In the whole movie, viewers can listen to a lot of classical music and operas. In the scene of the funeral, walking in the snow, fishing, the music really boosted emotions and the fulfill the environment of the movie. Recently I read an article argue about the using of minimal music in movies instead of classical music (pioneered by Philip Glass and recently, Max Richter in Arrival). They argued that using classical music in movies can cause mixed emotions and make the movies are harder to understand, so using minimal music can simplify and solve that problem. In my opinion, we still can use classical music in movies if we really understand it. In this case, Lesley Barber used many Handel’s works, it causes sadness but not over-dramatize the whole movie. Most of the opera in the movies used children chores, the reason is it merged with the pain of Lee in losing his children and deepen viewer’s understanding.

Listen to Manchester by the sea OST here:


In conclusion, Manchester by the sea is the great movie, emotional, heart-breaking, long lasting. If readers haven’t watched this movie, please find a quiet place, watch it, and share your thoughts with me.



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