Manchester by the Sea was one of the best movies of last year. I cried twice both times I watched it, truly one of the most realistic films I’ve ever seen. The characters literally talk over one another and don’t hear each other at times. From the first scene I was gripped. The relationship between Casey Affleck and his nephew really grabs you from the start. We learn more about it as the film goes on through flashbacks and also watch it developed whilst learning about it. Each and every reveal about the characters is told to us in an emotionally intriguing way and at the perfect time. This was one of the best character studies I have seen in years. I truly felt for Casey Affleck’s character every second along the way and understood why he did everything he did even when I did not want him to do it. I even felt with characters that were barely in it. Many people complained about the film’s pacing and its ending, but I thought they were both perfect. While the pacing was very slow, it really was fitting and needed for its subject matter. Things don’t really get any better for our protagonist, but with everything else that happens to him in the film and with his reactions to it, a happy ending would have been unfitting and totally would not have worked.
Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams give beautifully powerful performances. Affleck actually gives one of the best performances of the 21st century. Affleck subtly dies inside while still showing us his misery. Michelle Williams was robbed by Viola Davis at the Oscars. She does not have much screen time, but is devastating when on screen.
The film was wonderfully directed, but I won’t deny its flaws. While the atmosphere felt very very real at times, there were still flaws in the cinematography that keep it from perfection. While the cinematography was great, there were two or three scenes in the beginning where I felt that it was a bit too simple with boring straight on shots that kept cutting exactly 90 degrees from one another. In the more emotional scenes it couldn’t have been better. In the emotional scenes, there was chaos going on all around our lead character and we were being shown his reactions first through wides, then it would often cut to close-ups of Affleck and we would see his reaction in more detail. The costume design was simple, but real and fitting. The film just overall felt alive throughout.
Another little nitpick I had was that the editing felt a tad bit choppy. I thought some of the shots could have ran for a bit longer at times. The film has a great score, too. It really matches every scene. The songs were playing in my head for days after I saw it, making all the sadness even heavier. It really should have been nominated for Best Score at the Oscars.
All in all, Manchester by the Sea was one of the best films of last year that is totally worth your time. Though I had a few nitpicks with some of the technical aspects of the film, the acting and script were both some of the best this decade and it will break the heart of anyone who sees it. A must-see.