137 Minutes. Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick & Kyle Chandler. Director: Kenneth Lonergan.
Go on Casey! Go on! Lets make the case for Affleck being the 'Best Actor' at the Academy Awards of this years Oscars next month. The Golden Globe winner who thanked almost everybody (almost everybody) in his leading man speech last week (including his competition by the 'Fences', Denzel Washington), could even take the tap out of the golden record setting 'La La Land' of Hollywood's on-screen "it" couple Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who have been two-stepping around the globe since last years Sundance. By the 'Hidden Figures' of 'Moonlight' Casey Affleck will go against them all with 'Manchester By The Sea' behind him. Even big brother Ben (who alongside this movies producer Matt Damon gave his younger sibling his first big break in 'Good Will Hunting'. Before giving him an even bigger one as the lead in his directorial debut 'Gone Baby Gone') who this week is also Boston bound producing, writing, directing and starring in 'Live By Night' that takes La La Hollywoodland back to the time the American dream came with a guy named Tommy and a wink and a wry, sly smile. Since the aforementioned 'Gone' that he was so good in, Affleck junior has gone on his own so good too. He's come a long way from using his brothers baseball mitt for more than catching balls in 'Good Will'. From the shimmering noir of 'The Killer Inside Me', to the western woes of Brad Pitt in 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford'. Anything but cowardly, the shy voiced Casey has been a best actor before the Academy was taken to school, especially in films like the sinfully underrated 'Aint Them Bodies Saints'. Aint that the truth. Around this week last year he even went in competition with himself with the remarkably fine 'The Finest Hours' and the Hollywood role call emergency 'Triple 9'. But now it's clear this leading man is perfectly fine on his own, will Oscar answer the call?
Or is he in fact ok in his stoic solidarity? Because in this touching, tortured tale of a man in turmoil, Casey cases this isolation with an immersion that is inspired. Bereaved and brooding over his dearly departed brother and the life he lost before that death, Affleck's janitor character has a lot more to fix than leaky faucets and desperately bored housewives as his older siblings last will and testament leaves him with his only child and all the problems that come with that. Whether they be from teenager or legal guardian. And in this subtle but serious drama of raw sincerity, Affleck amazes in this indie flick that's going to set a spark under the commercial gold of February's Academy. His characters shy anxiety is as unrevealingly frustrating as his irritable likability. But beneath these layers and veneers is more than a few characteristics of a damn good man regardless whether his town or their tweeting timelines know or tell you so. It's a raw but refreshing, real world scope on life, love and the loss of both those things and Casey's characterizations evoke emotions like this both explicit and implied. He throws as many punches as he pulls. This is a Boston bar passed from the man who opened 'Good Will Hunting' by tracking down his old schoolyard bully on a basketball playground to level the playing field with a haymaker. And soon the great Matt Damon and his best friend will be joined by another Boston boy with that blue collar acting that is champion like the Beantown's Celtics (who of course play in the background here on the tube in the form of new Larry Bird legacy maker Isiah Thomas). In a new, social modern world where millennials are now nostalgists and hearts have gone from being worn on sleeves to phone screens the acting here lead by our leading man is as restrained as it is revolutionary. Like the simple but sublime cinematography this lets the face of things do the talking, speaking volumes eardum decible louder than the genuine life conversations and interactions that influence this film as straight forward but Springsteen strong as it's New England setting.
Because 'Manchester By The Sea' is especially beautiful and perfect this time of year. You see the sublime suburbs scenes that transition through this. But what about the occupants in the house of 'Gangs Of New York' writer Kenneth Lonergan who directs with defining distinction? Former 'Dawsons Creek' graduate turned one of the most underrated independent actresses around, 'Brokeback Mountain' and our 'Blue Valentine's' Michelle Williams was so haunting in Leonardo DiCaprio's desperate, child loss trauma on Boston's 'Shutter Island' and here she may be pushing around a stroller but she's nursing a mothers pain that even a loyal, heartfelt husband can't heal. Despite her brave face (one that looks like it's also in Affleck's (Ben's) 'Live By Night' right now...it's actually a similiar, cropped bob Sienna Miller) but crippled character, Williams is the master in setting the tone in just a spare few scenes. Meanwhile local hero of 'Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler's character may be dead here, but in a series of stirring and personable flashbacks that hound Affleck's mind with bittersweet memory he adds another real role to his classic 'Carol', 'Argo', 'Zero Dark Thirty', 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' and 'Super 8' call backs. Even Matthew Broderick shows up for a cameo showing that he wont take a day off even if school is out for Ferris Bueller forever. It's young graduating star of the future Lucas Hedges however who steals the show as the boy who is the life of this picture. Issues? The kid has two girlfriends for Christs sake. One who kind of looks like a young Lana Del Rey or that kid from 'Moonrise Kingdom' grown up. The other in a band with him that sounds like every other would be band out there...and they're blaming their Ringo. Oh and he's just lost his father and now the buck stops with the man that's his uncle. Hedges is such a good bet. He's so todays teen literal, yet also nuanced like an experienced veteran. We know one day he'll have a career like Casey's. He may even catch a nomination now. But as for who will win, despite a mid-plot reveal scene that will leave no doubt in as many as it devestates we just don't know. We're sitting on the fence until we see how's Denzel's acting/directing double swing. But this could be the Affleck's Academy of sibling rivalry record setting with Casey's catch by the sea. So long as when they tap their glasses with forks he doesn't forget his big brother. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'Gone Baby Gone', 'Moonlight', 'Good Will Hunting'.