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Manchester By The Sea

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Lee (Casey Affleck) seems like a pretty closed-up guy, living alone in the Boston area and working as a janitor. Yet he’s likely plodding along under some burdens — he rages out at strangers and his bleak haunted look matches the gloomy winter skies. He gets a call that his older brother has died, and his return to his hometown — the titular Manchester — sets off writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama, a well-acted exploration of grief, in its assorted and complicated forms.

Manchester’s not a good place for Lee, and through flashbacks we learn why. We see how his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), was the steady good guy in the family, and how that absence has an immediate effect. There was once Lee’s wife, Randi (Michelle Williams) and a different set of circumstances. But now there’s Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s 16-year-old son who has been left in care of Lee.

Much of the film is Lee and Patrick sorting out how to deal with each; Patrick is a mercurial teenager, but he has more support systems than the isolated and emotionally damaged Lee. As much as they bicker and sulk, there are moments are goofiness and clarity that underscore how even this fractured family has some chance of survival. Manchester is a sobering work, with a couple of wrenching scenes. But Lonergan has a keen eye for the full spectrum of tragedy which fortunately also includes humor and even hope.

Starts Fri., Dec. 9


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