Manchester by the Sea

Critics Consensus

Manchester by the Sea delivers affecting drama populated by full-bodied characters, marking another strong step forward for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 332

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 49,809
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Movie Info

After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 16-year-old, and is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to a world without him.

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Critic Reviews for Manchester by the Sea

All Critics (332) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (318) | Rotten (14)

  • This is about life as it is lived in the real world, with unassuageable pain, loose ends untied, life lessons unlearned. Life with no narrative closure.

    Jan 12, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Each scene brims with self-contained humour and drama, regardless of whether it moves the story along or simply fills in background colour.

    Jan 12, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Unforced acting couples with a nuanced, insightful script to tell a story that, although seemingly simple, is achingly complex.

    Dec 8, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The sadness of "Manchester by the Sea" is the kind of sadness that makes you feel more alive, rather than less, to the preciousness of things.

    Dec 7, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • Affleck is magnificent, but the movie is something less than that, because it can't completely overcome some built-in challenges. Even so, Manchester by the Sea deserves honors for being so different, and for working on the mind in a particular way

    Dec 6, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Its initial enigma seems to need no explanation; yet, once deciphered, the film does not falter but moves only deeper into the emotional territory it charts.

    Dec 2, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Manchester by the Sea

  • Mar 13, 2019
    Really well written and outstandingly acted drama. Flashbacks unfold the full scale of the tragic events only by and by, but considering relatively little happens overall, the movie flows really well anyhow. There is a very authentic feel to it, that makes for a couple really amusing scenes amidst all the drama, too. Ultimately a very rewarding viewing experience, for which Affleck completely deserved his Oscar.
    Jens S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 22, 2017
    https://cinephilecrocodile.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/manchester-by-sea-dir-kenneth-lonergan.html
    Anthony L Super Reviewer
  • Sep 07, 2017
    Started off really well, but gets long and drawn out, and honestly I liked the character more when he was just a grumpy bugger before the past trauma is revealed. I watched about half (and it's over two hours long). Michelle Williams is underused. It's a well made movie, I can understand the praise, but my copy was on loan and I needed to return it, but didn't have enough interest to renew it.
    Nicki M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2017
    Blacker than midnight in a skillet, seating drama Manchester By the Sea showcases a lead actor and writer-director at their finest, drawing you into a very real-feeling blue note that nonetheless features a lot of high notes both tonally and artistically. In this R-rated drama, a depressed uncle (Casey Affleck) gets asked to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy's father (Kyle Chandler) dies. Yes, for the most part, it's a downer. There is a deeper darker tragedy at the center of this already tragic story, the collateral damage from which our main character, Lee Chandler, never recovers. Say what you will about the film's funereal tone but there is nary a false feeling or false sounding moment in the entire 137 minutes...nary, mind you. Though that sad page from Lee's past almost feels TOO tragic as it unspools, it's the resulting interactions of the characters involved - especially between him, his ex-wife Randi, and nephew Patrick - that feel note-for-note authentic. Despite the general malaise, Manchester By the Sea's truthfulness - coming to terms with the turmoil scene by scene as much as humanly possible - ultimately makes for an optimistic experience. Life is often a bummer, which all filmgoers can relate to in spades. The fact that this film's authenticity nearly moves the viewer from sympathy to empathy, however, speaks volumes for its emotional punch. And while it's true that some wish to escape a depressive atmosphere when they step into a cinema, these audience members probably shouldn't have wandered into a drama with a movie poster featuring two sullen people and more oak clusters than the most decorated Army veteran. Lee is a broken man. We know this without dialogue. Casey Affleck has turned in many understated performances where a character fails to deal with some emotional issues (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Gone Baby Gone, The Killer Inside Me), but his turn in Manchester By the Sea takes it a step further. In this very gifted actor's hands, Lee unhealthily shoves down every last feeling such that the internal pain exhibits itself externally and he looks perpetually stooped but coiled, seemingly reticent but ready to strike as soon as someone pushes his buttons. It's an amazing turn worth its weight in Oscar gold more than any other male performance this year. Michele Williams as Randi, meanwhile, meets him beat for beat with a lot less screen time. Both say so much with so little; both performances are truly unforgettable. Without Kenneth Lonergan's masterful screenplay and direction, however, these turns might have very well been rudderless. They chart some rough waters in Manchester but their downbeat experience amazingly gives way to an upbeat outlook thanks to the transparency of all the artists involved. It's a rare film that has you run the gamut of emotions without filmic tricks or manipulation. Here, simply put, reality truly sets in. To Sum it Up: Deep but Blue Sea
    Jeff B Super Reviewer

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