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Laramie Movie Scope:
Manchester by the Sea

A tale of love and life lost, trapped by the past

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 20, 2016 -- The release of this film finally expanded to enough theaters to allow me to go see it without having to drive all the way to Denver. I had been wanting to see this for a while, and it is worth the wait.

This is a story about Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck of “Interstellar”) a man haunted by his tragic past, who is very unexpectedly named guardian of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) after his brother dies.

Lee drives from Boston, where he lives, to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts (where filming took place) to see his brother one last time, but arrives about an hour too late. He stays to take care of his brother's funeral arrangements. Lee is shocked when he learns that his brother made him the guardian of Patrick in his will. He doesn't want the responsibility, but reluctantly agrees when nobody else can be found to take his place.

Lee has the constant expression of a sleepy, bored man, a little bit out of it. He only reluctantly engages in conversations with others. He looks sleepy, until, without warning, he suddenly turns violent, getting into fist fights with strangers occasionally for no reason. This is one manifestation of his inner demons, the source of which is gradually revealed in the film.

Lee's old demons are awakened in the town where he was wounded as he tries gamely to raise Patrick. Lee wants desperately to get away from this place and move back to Boston, but Patrick resists. All his friends live in Manchester-by-the-Sea and he needs his friends more than ever following the death of his father.

Lee is just hanging on to this new life in his old town when he meets his ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams of “My Week With Marilyn.” Their conversation about their tragic past sends him over the edge and he gets into another fight at a bar. Unable to move on and unable to stay, Lee must find a solution for his sake, as well as Patrick's.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) crafted a great screenplay for this film, filled with witty, observant dialog. I've not seen a film in recent memory which more accurately and convincingly reveals human nature. The characters, and their motivations, are very convincing, except for Lee himself, whose combination of placid, unassuming behavior interrupted by sudden bouts of violence, seems odd, but somewhat understandable.

Although this is a heavy drama, it is offset with quite a bit of humor. There are some nice scenic shots of both urban and natural landscapes by cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes (“Trainwreck”). The performances in the film are very strong by all the main and supporting actors. But most of all, the writing behind this film is excellent. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)