Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, and Gretchen Mol
Kenneth Lonergan's beautifully rendered character drama follows Casey Affleck's Lee, a muted, angry man living in Boston, who is clearly in some sort of exile. When Lee has to return home, to the frigid (in every sense) town of Manchester after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler, seen in flashback), he makes no pretense of how painful it is for him — and then he finds out the unwelcome news that he has been made his 16-year-old nephew's guardian, effectively sticking him back into his past. Manchester by the Sea is about broken love, parenting, carelessness, pain, responsibility, and family. It's one of the saddest movies I've ever seen — I wept throughout, as did most other people in the theater — but it's also funny, which is an emotional relief. There are no easy answers in Lonergan's story, but the film asks whether there can be degrees of forgiveness and grace, or whether those are absolute states. The performances are superlative: Affleck is stunning; Lucas Hedges, who plays the nephew, will soon be a star because of this movie; and Michelle Williams, who is always good, has never been this good. (I yearn for Lonergan to do a companion movie from her character's point of view.) As my colleague Alison Willmore put it, Manchester by the Sea and The Birth of a Nation are the two Sundance movies we'll be discussing for the rest of the year. And I can't wait for you all to see this one so we can talk about it. —Kate Aurthur
Distribution: Amazon, which is bigfooting into the film market, bought Manchester by the Sea for $10 million. Unlike Netflix, which is committed to day-and-date VOD for its films, Amazon will partner with a distributor for a more traditional theatrical release for Manchester by the Sea. Considering its Oscars prospects, let's assume that release will be in the fall.