Review: Manchester by the Sea

by The Cowl Editor on January 19, 2017

Arts & Entertainment

Photo courtesy of


by Kerry Torpey `20

A&E Staff


Described as one of the top ten films of 2016 by the National Board of Review and American Film Institute, Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, critics and audiences alike have expressed acclaim for the recently released drama.

Set in the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a janitor who lives and works nearby in Quincy. Chandler, a placid man, seems to be living a routine life; he goes to work, watches TV, and finds himself traveling to local bars where he drunkenly feuds with other customers.

The audience quickly realizes that Chandler is troubled, as if something in his past haunts him. When he receives a tragic phone call from a friend back in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Chandler finds himself the legal guardian of his brother’s son, Patrick.

Chandler has no idea what to do. His internal conflict of whether or not to move to Manchester-by-the-Sea so Patrick can stay where he grew up or to ship Patrick up to Quincy becomes a major point of conversation throughout the film. Patrick, like any teenager, wants to stay with his friends in the place he grew up, which further complicates the situation, as Chandler wants Patrick to be happy.

The other option is for Chandler to find someone else to be Patrick’s guardian. This notion, although upsetting for Patrick as he feels his uncle does not care about him enough to be his guardian, is one that Chandler feels would benefit both him and his nephew. Finding someone who would be willing to do so, however, proves to be difficult for Chandler.

Local townspeople all know Lee Chandler, because he previously lived in Manchester-by-the-Sea. When characters see him and say things like, “So, that is the Lee Chandler,” The audience finds themselves questioning why others refer to him with such emphasis. Chandler has such a deep, emotional wall put up and once the reason is revealed, it is truly heartbreaking.

Affleck and Hedges, who plays Patrick, have great chemistry as the slightly estranged nephew and uncle. The dialogue between the two is both emotional but incredibly witty, thanks to the work of Kenneth Lonergan.

Williams plays Chandler’s ex-wife, Randi. Her performance is admirable as she captures the emotions of a character who, like Lee, is suffering due to past events.

A standout performance is that of Hedges. Hedges accurately captures what it is like to be a teenager, all while his character deals with a great amount of pain and loss.

Manchester by the Sea is an emotional and gripping film that flourishes with an experienced cast and director/writer alongside commendable cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes.