It’s that time of the year again. School’s starting to wind down for break and people are beginning to look forward to the new year and what it has in store for them. This time however, also brings forth films that have critics and fans alike talking about what will be consider the ‘Best Picture’ of the year at the Oscars. This ‘Oscar Buzz’ starts as early as January of each year at film festivals such as Sundance, but it tends to ramp up in December and January when films are being released into theaters so that a wide audience can see them. One of these such films that has had a lot of buzz surround it since early in the year is Manchester by the Sea.
Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, tells the story of an anti-social handyman (Casey Affleck) who is forced to take care of his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after his brother (Kyle Chandler) unexpectedly dies.
I was really interested in this film because of the buzz that had been surrounding it since it premiered at Sundance Film Festival this past year. It had been on almost every must see list that I had looked at, so I was excited to see this film just because of that. I still tempered my expectations though and even with my expectations kept at a relative minimum, I was very underwhelmed and disappointed with this film. Not to say it’s a bad film, but it is not a film that should be getting the buzz that it is getting, minus the performance of Casey Affleck.
Casey Affleck is great in this film. Simple as that, he’s just great. He is probably on of the most underrated actors working today (just watch Gone Baby Gone). His performance is a master-class on what subtle acting should be. He doesn’t exaggerate anything that he does and his character feels so real because of that and he makes someone that you shouldn’t like as a character, likable. He is able to play the pain that his character is in so well and real and there are a couple of scenes when dealing with his backstory and ex-wife (Michelle Williams) that are truly heart-breaking, simply because his performance.
The supporting cast, especially Michelle Williams, are also great. Williams brings heart and sadness to her role that, like Affleck’s performance, felt so real and raw that it was hard to watch, especially with her character’s story, which is the same as Affleck’s character. Their interactions were honestly the best part of this film and I think they should both be nominated for Oscars.
Where this film falls off for me though is the story and all of the characters besides Affleck and Williams’ characters. There is a story is here worth telling, and those are the flashbacks that are shown throughout the film. If the film had focused on that story and the aftermath alone and not had any of the present-day storylines. If it had done that, than I think that this film would’ve more gripping and heart-breaking because the parts of the film that were gripping and heart-breaking dealt with the fallout of that event in the flashbacks.
Almost all of the characters were holy unlikable as well too. The nephew in this film is a complete jerk who think that the world revolves around him and nothing else matters. He was annoying and acted like a snob for most of the film with no comprehension about his situation. While the rest of the characters weren’t as bad as he was, they pretty much were non-existent. They were one-dimensional that served as plot devices more than actual characters. They were simply there without much to do. If the film has just been about two or three characters and not felt the need to include any side characters in substantial roles at all, it would’ve made a world of difference.
Overall, Manchester by the Sea sports two great performance that should be nominated for Best Acting Oscars, but surrounded by a film that doesn’t hold up around it. However, if you are interested in the Oscars at all, you should see this film for the performances alone.