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Five Cent Cine At Home: Manchester By The Sea

Modes of Grieving

It’s wise to be wary of films that feature grief and death, if only because they’re often burdened by teachers, priests, psychologists and best friends that intercede to provide the cloying and self-righteous counseling that will eventually restore the victim to mental health. “Manchester by the Sea” (the name of a Massachusetts maritime county) is an exception, though there’s more than enough grief and death to go around.

The film begins with the premature death of Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), who leaves behind his 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and a brother, Lee (Casey Affleck).

Traumatized Lee is surprised to learn that he has been named Patrick’s guardian. His grief is deepened and complicated by a horrific family tragedy, revealed through one of several flashbacks that complicate the film’s first half.

In essence, the story is about how Lee and Patrick react to their circumstances and their new relationship. Newly appointed guardian Lee retreats into a quiet yet deeply troubled, low-affect pragmatism, consistent with his problem-solving habits as a handyman, yet distinct from what little we know of his damaged past. Patrick is instead protective but active: he plays hockey, he’s a guitarist in an earnest rock band, and is at home with his teenage sexuality. Both men, however, find an outlet in physical violence.

Manchester, Massachusetts’s winter weather is also a factor. The gray skies are relentless, and, more important, frozen ground deprives Patrick of the burial ritual he needs.

A subtle, sometimes ambiguous, and often terse script avoids the kind of maudlin TV dialogue that often damages such films.

Whatever healing Lee and Patrick can get is further strained by their differences in temperament and age. A subtle, sometimes ambiguous, and often terse script avoids the kind of maudlin TV dialogue that often damages such films. When Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) pleads dramatically for forgiveness, Lee can only reply, “there’s nothing there,” apparently referring to his inability to remain in Manchester.

The film is far from flawless. But for the most part, director and writer Kenneth Lonergan exercises admirable restraint, allowing Affleck and Hedges to produce some of the best acting of the season.

Date: 2016

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, C.J. Wilson, Kyle Chandler, Matthew Broderick.

Oscars: Won: Best Actor (Casey Affleck); Best Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan); Nominated: Best Picture Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges); Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams); Best Director (Kenneth Lonergan).

Runtime: 137 minutes

Manchester by the Sea ★★★1/2 (out of 4 stars)

Available: Streaming on Prime Video; for rent or purchase redbox, YouTube and elsewhere; see Just Watch here.

With movie theaters closed, Five Cent Cine is shifting gears. “2 film critics” will continue our usual reviewing schedule of about 3 movies per month, now labeled Five Cent Cine At Home, with all of those films available streaming or for rent or purchase. Each review will list (at the top) the source(s) for you to access the film in your own living room or bedroom.

In addition, we’ll be posting a “Streamer of the Week,” a review from our catalogue (more than 110 reviews dating to mid-2016) of a film available for streaming—a way to revisit a film you’ve already seen or to decide you would enjoy.

Also see reviews on…

Until The Birds Return


Two Popes

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The Lighthouse

Eighth Grade

The Traitor (Il Traditore)

Free Solo

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Sorry to Bother You


Hidden Figures

Ford v Ferrari

Captain Fantastic

First Cow


Ordinary Love

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Uncut Gems

Les Misérables

The Last Black Man in San Francisco



Little Women

Marriage Story

Queen & Slim

The Irishman


Cold Brook

Jojo Rabbit

Pain & Glory ( Dolor y Gloria)



Downton Abbey

Ad Astra

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Goldfinch

Good Boys

Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

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