with Casey Affleck, Michele Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges.
“I just can’t beat it” admits Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a downcast man who had suffered inconsolable loss already when his brother dies and leaves him in charge of his nephew , 16 year old Patrick (Lucas Hedges) .
Patrick lives in Manchester by the Sea where he assumed his father’s boat business would slip into his hands one day, just as easily as he juggles several girlfriends at once. However, the Chandler temper sometimes gets the better of him, and like his uncle Lee, he can suddenly turn violent, as it does in a fracas on the ice during hockey practice.
The movie unfolds gracefully with a series of vignettes that frame Lee’s life as a handyman in a multiple dwelling where he deals with the usual plumbing mistakes, wiring malfunctions and other things that can make tenants cross and defensive. We learn about Lee’s previous happier days with his wife and three children and as we travel back and forth in time, the relationship with his brother John and his nephew Patrick becomes clear.
Lonergan’s brilliance comes in flashes of dialogue between siblings who take responsibility for each other even when they’d rather not. He has a dark palate brightened by flashes of humor. There is a comic scene where the director appears as a buttinsky questioning Lee’s parenting style when he argues with his nephew on the street. Lee grows into his role as a protector and guardian of Patrick. Patrick resists, yields, and is ultimately swayed to the similarity between this man and his father who has just died.
Lucas Hedges as Patrick is superb, as are all the supporting cast especially Michelle Williams. Her key scene leads the path to redemption for Lee. There are also beautifully structured scenes with Matthew Broderick as an Evangelical Christian recently hooked up with Patrick’s recovered mother. And the band rehearsals with Patrick and his fellow musicians reflect the ugly power plays of teens.
If I have one complaint about the movie, it is that the music overwhelms at times as if grandly underlining the sorrow of certain scenes.
But overall, Lonergan has pulled off another beautifully written, well directed, and expertly acted movie, joining his other excellent movies, You Can Count on Me and Margaret.