MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Review by Susan Granger

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“Guilt is a tireless horse. Grief ages into sorrow and sorrow is an enduring rider,” wrote Dean Koontz – a quote which perfectly describes the tone of Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. Even before this story begins, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has suffered unimaginable tragedy. Now his beloved older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), a Cape Ann fisherman, has died, and Lee has been named guardian of Joe’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Read on…

That means surly Lee, who has been working as an apartment janitor/handyman in Quincy, outside Boston, must return to his hometown of Manchester by the Sea, the working class suburb whose tight-knit residents view him as a social pariah.

While Lee wants to do right by his family, he’s reluctant to move back to a place that’s filled with painful memories and the inevitability of running into his foul-mouthed ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), who has re-married and is expecting a baby.

But rebellious Patrick is determined to stay on the North Shore, where he’s a popular high school jock who plays in a band and has numerous girl-friends.

Working from his original screenplay, director Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) creates a poignant American melodrama, adroitly inter-weaving complicated flashbacks with comedic moments.

Lonergan’s authenticity is undeniable: the truth is in the nuanced details, like Lee and Patrick bickering about moving to Boston while walking down the street in the freezing cold after making Joe’s funeral arrangements and forgetting where they parked the car.

“Are you fundamentally unsound?” Patrick asks his cantankerous uncle.

Casey Affleck’s minimalist self-loathing deserves an Oscar nomination, along with Michelle Williams’ wrenching supporting turn. The ensemble also includes Gretchen Mol, C.J. Wilson, Matthew Broderick and Anna Baryshnikov (Mikhail Baryshnikov’s daughter).

FYI: The $8.5 million film was originally conceived by Matt Damon and John Krasinski. But they had schedule conflicts, and it was essential to shoot during the New England winter.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Manchester by the Sea” is a mournful 9, an unflinching, emotionally devastating tear-jerker.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.