As I mentioned before, if you see a film go by that has 97% on the <rottentomato.com> “Tomatometer” and all the principals show up at Charley Rose’s oak table, you can pretty much bet it’s worth a look. Accordingly, “Manchester by the sea” is definitely worth a look, but with a bit of a caveat.
“Manchester…” is another film where the director simply sets the stage and lets the principal actor loose to show what he has without much if any restriction. Similar recent films are Robert Duvall in “Tender Mercies” (1983) and “Get Low” (2009), and Michael Keaton in “Birdman” (2015). All the other cast members point toward the leading actor doing his tour de force.
Similarly, Casey Affleck really does do a magnificent job in a very textured, restrained performance as a man who has suffered an unspeakably terrible event in his past and doesn’t really want to continue living, much less be responsible for a precocious adolescent. You can literally watch his gears work it out as best he can and it’s a pretty tough mechanism.
And thereby goes the caveat. It’s a very slow and ponderous process that loses touch with the audience’s span of attention in parts. The film is too long and doesn’t really explore the plot in a consistent, steadfast manner. It plods and even the outstanding portrayal by Casey Affleck, not previously known as a heavyweight, can save it in places. That said, watch for a brief two-minute blast from Michelle Williams about having lunch. She blows the film away.
Like the guy on “What’s my car worth” who sadly reports that he must give the car a “3” (of 6) for “condition” because there are a few scratches, bumps and worn spots, but the car is still pretty collectable, I must give “Manchester” 3 (of 5) gloomy expressions because it’s just too interminably somber but it’s still pretty collectable.