“Manchester by the Sea” was the opening movie of this year’s Viennale. After so many movies at the /slash filmfestival that felt rather long and tedious, despite mostly moderate running times, I was surprised how quick this movie passed by. It didn’t drag for one second, and was entertaining throughout, from start to finish. At a running time of almost 140 minutes, that’s no small feat. I’ve seen quite a few movies this year which were considerably shorter, but nevertheless felt longer than this one.
“Manchester by the Sea is a nice, beautiful, honest and very entertaining movie about difficult issues, without any kitsch or pathos. Personally, I found its predecessor “Margaret” to be just a tad more emotionally touching, but nevertheless was quite taken by “Manchester by the Sea”. At first, it looks like Kenneth Lonergan – after the guilt-ridden “Margaret” – this time deals first and foremost with grief. And while it definitely plays a big part in the proceedings, after about an hour it becomes clear that guilt, once again, also is a very important part of the equation, since we learn that something terrible happened in Lee Chandler’s past which prevents him from totally embracing the idea of becoming the caretaker of his brother’s son after he passed away. Said revelation, while a little bit erratic due to the constant switches back to the present, was absolutely harrowing and devastating. Once again, Kenneth Lonergan deals with a terrible accident which ruined lives, and shows how the person who feels responsible for the tragedy tries to deal with it – something that he only starts to manage once he moves away. However, as soon as he returns to his hometown, he’s once again reminded of that terrible night, and even though by now, most people around him are able to forgive him, he simply can’t forgive himself. The way in which “Manchester by the Sea” dealt with this topic as well as the grief of a young man with the loss of his father was absolutely great. Same can be said about the performances. Michelle Williams was fantastic as always, and both Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges were also great. I also liked the laid back way in which the movie dealt with sex, and despite the downbeat topics, a couple of funny scenes throughout made sure that the movie never got too depressing and miserable. Finally, I really loved the ending, and the wonderful message that it seemed to convey: Everything is not going to be alright – but that’s ok. Very refreshing!