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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/21/2017

All Ratings out of

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Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 1/30/2017

I love Oscar time. I always look forward to hearing which movies and actors get nominated because most of the time, I have not seen the movies at that point but I have listened or read enough pop news to know what critics think about these movies. Our family loves to then see how many of these movies we can watch on Blu-Ray before the ceremonies occur so that we can have a favorite going into to the Oscars. Most of the time, what we like is never what is chosen, but it never stops us for rooting for certain movies or actors each year. This year, the movie I have looked forward to the most is Manchester by the Sea because I LOVE a drama that has an interesting story and is well-acted. Manchester by the Sea does not disappoint.

Manchester by the Sea tells the story of Boston custodian Lee (Casey Affleck), a quiet loner with a palpable edge of anger and self-loathing. His day-to-day drudgery is shaken by the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), forcing Lee to return to his hometown and haunting past in order to take guardianship of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee’s return brings him back in contact with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams), and forces Lee to face many wounds- some fresh, and some old- and even more painful. The movie explores grief through Lee’s tough decisions as to how to best take care of his 16 year-old nephew in a town that he is uncomfortable returning to given past experiences.

The story is simple in plot but so rich in character that it allows truths to be explored and revealed although they may not be the ones we want to know. I’ll be upfront and admit that any movie with Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams in it will always have a 99.9% chance of being well-received by me because they are two of my favorite actors, and neither disappoint here. Michelle Williams can convey sadness with just a look unlike any actress I have ever seen. She always bring a vulnerability to every character she plays and her portrayal of Lee’s ex Randi gives the movie a huge emotional punch in the gut that makes her my Oscar favorite for supporting actress. So to me, the fact that her performance is so moving was not the least bit surprising. What did surprise me was how well Casey Affleck’s performance convinced me he deserves the Best Actor Oscar. At that is what makes this movie so good- the characters in this movie are so textured and multi-layered, in part due to the actors, and in part due to a script written so beautifully that you can’t help but feel for these characters. Especially Lee, a person so tortured that even though everyone around him can love and forgive him, he is unable to do the same for himself.

Let’s face it- a movie about grief and forgiveness is obviously going to up your chances of being Oscar nominated, but what is refreshing is that Manchester by the Sea works so beautifully because writer/director Kenneth Longerman has crafted a story that is heart-wrenching and funny. There are some events in this movie that are truly most people’s worst nightmares, but the movie never treads into melodrama or manipulation because there is a constant balance maintained of ordinary, small moments mixed in with life altering events sprinkled with humor in the everyday little things we experience in life. That is a lot for any movie to balance, but this one definitely succeeds. Attention to details makes this story work, and everything is set up from the first frame where Joe, Lee, and a young Patrick show how tight the brothers were so that by the end of the movie, the viewer knows the continuous struggle most families have (and the struggles Lee has) will continue to a certain extent, but Lee and Patrick will stay close without the movie having to give in and give us a pat, clean ending where everything ends nicely for everyone.

Manchester by the Sea certainly features a lot of northeastern accents on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors are very natural and true, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the image is never soft. The depth looks fine, and the many landscape shots have a definite crispness to them. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track came across as incredibly unbalanced to me. Casey Affleck is a well-known mumbler and the low volume on the dialogue didn't help at all. The surround sound effects during the bar and funeral scenes work very well, and we feel placed in the middle of the action. I didn't note any powerful subwoofer effects.

The Manchester by the Sea contains just a few extra features. "A Conversation with Director/Writer Kenneth Lonergan" is not the usual interview, but an AUDIO COMMENTARY which can be listened to during the film. "Emotional Lives: Making Manchester by the Sea" (16 minutes) contains comments from the cast and crew, who discuss the themes of the film and the story. This is an emphasis on the acting here, specifically from Affleck and Williams, and we hear a great deal from both actors, and Lonergan. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. The three scenes here are all new. They don't introduce any new characters or subplots, but they are worth watching.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long