“Manchester by the Sea” Devastates through Inescapable Tragedy

“But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather”

— Fantine, Les Miserables

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is a gut-punch of a film dressed up in the doldrums of everyday life.  On the surface, the plot is universal and relatable:  a man returns back to his hometown on account of the sudden death of his older brother, and must make the arrangements and look after his nephew in the aftermath.  There is surprising wit and humor in the story, heavily sarcastic and ball-busting, and it helps to offset at least some of the sadness.  Because a darker and sadder mystery bubbles up through off-hand comments, whispers, and flashbacks.  This non-linear storytelling method is used intelligently and sparingly, and suffices to wrench maximal emotional devastation from the audience.  The result is a wonderful but sad film that can count itself as one of the best of the year.

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