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Sabrina Boermeester

Kellie Deys

Non-Fiction Writing

8 March 2017

Tragedy and Despair: A Complex Reality

We’ve all seen it before, the films that leave you aching with sorrow as you experience

the agony of key characters facing tragedies that leave them grieving with family and friends.

But, I can bet you’ve never seen anything like the heart-wrenching story of Lee Chandler in the

Academy Award winning drama, Manchester by the Sea. Taking place in Manchester,

Massachusetts, director Kenneth Lonergan makes you live through the complexities of tragic

reality that the Chandler family must figure a way through as they’re faced with casualties,

haunting pasts, and heart break while somehow making you laugh along the way.

Lee Chandler suffers with an extreme type of pain on a daily basis as he fights to make a

living alone in Boston as a janitor of an apartment building. Living in a small, dusty closet in the

apartment building basement, Lee is a devastated man trying to block out the guilt of his past

life. He’s summoned back to his hometown of Manchester when he is informed of the news that

his brother, Joe, has just passed due to heart failure. Lee’s life is flipped upside down when he

finds he’s been given sole custody of his 16-year-old nephew, Patrick, a broken, vulnerable

teenage boy. Forced to leave his job in Boston to take care of Patrick, Lee faces a series of

unpredictable events that he’s completely and utterly unprepared for all while dealing with the

grief of his brother and guilt of his past.

Within the two hours and seventeen minutes of Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan reveals

the horrors of Lee Chandler’s past that’s made him leave Manchester to begin with. Filled with
flashbacks, the film builds tension as we learn more and more about Lee and who he really is.

He’s angry and irritable, he picks fights at bars, he’s drunk, he has to figure out how to relate to a

16-year-old who denies to build a relationship with him, and his only goal is to get the hell out of

Manchester and back to Boston where he doesn’t have to face the wrath of his past. We all knew

Lee was depressed right from the start but what haunts him, what’s the root of his pain, what

drove him out of Manchester, is worse than we could ever imagine.

The roles performed by Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams were

breathtakingly on point. Casey Affleck won the Academy Award “Best Performance by an Actor

in a Leading Role” for his role as Lee, while Lucas Hedges (Patrick) and Michelle Williams

(Randi, Lee’s ex-wife) were both nominated for “Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a

Supporting Role”, and the movie as a whole was nominated for “Best Motion Picture of the

Year”. Acting was phenomenal as each of the characters absorbed their roles and made the script

a reality. The complex relationships that are built and destroyed are portrayed through the

behaviors, languages, and emotions of the characters at hand. They’re able to show the meaning

behind simple, yet convoluted, everyday struggles that many of us may face or are currently

facing today.

Casey Affleck developed Lee throughout the movie, allowing himself to slip into rarely

seen screenplay of male sensitivity and tenderness. Lee controls himself better over time as he

develops his relationship with Patrick with emotional meticulousness. Lonergan knew we, as

viewers, didn’t need a full script and full explanations within the script in order to feel what

characters are feeling. Body languages, facial expressions, music, and even less conversing

between characters was arguably the most powerful use of direction I’ve seen in film.
Lonergan and producer Matt Damon worked to successfully put together the scene of

Manchester for the setting of the film. The actual Manchester by the Sea lets off dark grays and

faint color in the winter setting that pull you in to feel the darkness that you might feel on a sad,

rainy day. The mood, of course, fits the dark atmosphere of the plot. There’s also a small use of

music throughout the course of the film, as scenes are exaggerated by the use of no music where

silence build tension in emotional situations and gaps are filled with sympathies that add to the

affect. The plot moves smoothly through connecting current scenes and flashbacks that give

explanations to behaviors and interactions with Lee amongst other key characters.

Some may argue that Lonergan dragged out the movie too long or that there were

unresolved issues when it came to an end. Most “plot twists” come towards the beginning of the

film which then lead to characters reacting and dealing with these twists. I agree with this

frustration as a viewer, as we hope to see a happy ending with a solution to all conflicts. Yet, we

fail to remember that this is the harsh reality of our lives. Some problems don’t always get

solved, some questions don’t always get answered, some situations simply don’t always work in

our favor. Manchester by the Sea opens up the eyes of those who may not know this, those who

may believe we are entitled to a happy ending. Manchester by the Sea is the truth.

Manchester by the Sea explores these truths of reality through forgiveness. We must learn

to forgive the burden that others have put upon us as well as forgive ourselves for the burden

we’ve put on others. Without forgiveness, there is no hope for that happy ending we long for and

without forgiveness, we may not move past what’s dragging us back. With this lesson,

Manchester by the Sea leaves viewers more than just a tear or two.
Sabrina Boermeester

Kellie Deys

Non-Fiction Writing

8 March 2017

Tragedy and Despair: A Complex Reality of Manchester by the Sea

In this raw, emotional drama, Manchester by the Sea will lead you down a dark road of

heart-wrenching tragedy while somehow making you break out in laughter along the way. In the

Academy Award winning film, director Kenneth Lonergan tells the story of a broken Lee

Chandler as he battles depression, suffers family casualties, fights off the demons of his past, all

while trying to take care of his sixteen-year-old nephew that just lost his father to heart failure.

This drama is like no other, using a mix of raw emotion and dry comedy as it exposes viewers to

the harsh truth of tragic reality with no redemption.

In the two hours and seventeen minutes of Manchester by the Sea, we learn a lot more

than meets the eye about Lee Chandler. Played by Casey Affleck, Lee, a janitor for an apartment

complex in Boston, lives a depressing, irritable life. When summoned back to Manchester, his

hometown, after finding out his brother, Joe, lost his life to heart failure, he finds that he has

been given sole custody of Joe’s sixteen-year-old son that he hasn’t seen in years. As the plot

unravels, we come to find out why Lee left Manchester to begin with and it’s worse than we ever

could have imagined. The horrors of Lee’s past that haunts him everyday eat away at his own

being, affecting the way he builds relationships and interacts with human life on a daily basis.

Kenneth Lonergan and producer Matt Damon put together a drama masterpiece as they

use emotional, meticulous scripts, carefully assigned body language incorporation, and an overall

dark picture to emphasize the theme of the film. With this, we don’t have to wonder what
characters are feeling because we can feel it ourselves and we don’t have to wonder what

characters are thinking when it’s not fully explained in the script because we can imply their

reasoning on our own. Manchester by the Sea encompasses academy award winning acting that

exposes us to the complexities of everyday hardships.

Manchester by the Sea is not just a poor, sad story of a man that lost his brother to heart

failure. It’s about the reality of mourning and tragedy that has no recovery. It’s a sinking black

hole that never ends, a story with no ending. It’s the harsh truth that not all stories have a happy

ending and not all questions can be answered throughout the courses of our lives, thus not all

problems may be solved. It’s about forgiveness and gratitude for the things we have, not the

things we don’t and things we cannot control. It’s about living, learning, and adapting to this

crazy thing we call life that throws the worst at us to see if we’ll survive. It’s about truth.