Taking advantage of the most recent Odeon Screen Unseen I settled down into my seat not having any idea what was ahead. Even the kind offer of an usher, giving me the last minute opportunity to know what was coming was politely rebuffed. I wanted this first time experience to have its full effect.
After the obligatory advertisements and trailers the familiar BBFC card appeared and as I read the title I was excited. I'd heard great things about Manchester by the Sea, critics in the USA have used phrases such as 'film of the year', so anticipation was high.
Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler a recluse, a loner and a man battling demons. When his brother dies suddenly Lee must return 'home' to deal with his brothers affairs and care for his teenage nephew. While back in the town that raised him, he must revisit not only places but people from his past and deal with the repercussions.
To say much more about the film would tread into serious spoiler territory. Given that the film has one main focus throughout it is very difficult to say much more without giving away vital information that is much better left to experience than be told ahead of viewing.
This a slow burn film that focuses on grief, loss and attempted recovery. This is also a film with a wonderful performance from Casey Affleck whose silence in certain scenes speaks volumes. Every expression, every posture befits a character who is in the process of lament and processing his grief that is found in the ripples of the water around him as much as the people he encounters. Affleck is already receiving award nominations for this role and if Oscar nominations come in 2017 it would not be in the least bit surprising.
Mention must also be made to Lucas Hedges as the nephew of Lee who wrestling with similar issues to his uncle helps the pair hold and maintain a good chemistry throughout.
As the film progresses, more and more is slowly and patiently revealed about Lee's past through flashback moments that have a real emotional impact and heft, which at times are as breathtaking as the scenery of the town itself.
Manchester by the Sea is a film that may not, on paper, have a mass appeal. A slow burning family drama in which plot is maintained through complex characters, lingering glances and the sighs of a wearied soul is not an easy sell. It may well be that Manchester by the Sea is a film that you only watch once. However, if that is the case, I believe Manchester by the Sea is a film that will stay with you for a long time after the credits roll.
Manchester by the Sea is released in the UK on 13th January 2017.