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|Manchester by the Sea|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kenneth Lonergan|
|Written by||Kenneth Lonergan|
|Music by||Lesley Barber|
|Cinematography||Jody Lee Lipes|
|Edited by||Jennifer Lame|
|Box office||$55.7 million|
Manchester by the Sea is a 2016 American drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges. The plot follows a man who looks after his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016 and was soon picked up by Amazon Studios for distribution. It began a limited release on November 18, 2016, before going wide on December 16, 2016. The film received widespread acclaim from critics and has grossed $56 million worldwide on an $8.5 million budget.
Manchester by the Sea was listed by many critics as among the best films of 2016. At the 89th Academy Awards, the film received six nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Williams) and Best Original Screenplay. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and was nominated in four more categories.
Lee Chandler, a quiet and reserved handyman in Quincy, Massachusetts, receives word from George, a family friend, that his brother Joe has suffered a heart attack. Joe dies before Lee can get to the hospital. Lee goes back to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to break the news to Joe's teenage son, Patrick. Staying in Joe's home while arranging Joe's funeral, Lee is shocked to learn that Joe named him as Patrick's guardian. Reluctant to commit to the guardianship and unwilling to move back to Manchester, but opposed to returning Patrick to his estranged alcoholic mother, Lee makes plans for Patrick to move back to Boston with him. Patrick, deeply rooted in the Manchester community, objects to the idea.
We learn through flashbacks that Lee once lived happily in Manchester with his wife Randi and their three young children, until his negligence while intoxicated led to a house fire that killed their children. With no criminal charges filed against him but his wife Randi blaming him for the fire, Lee attempted suicide by pulling a gun from a police officer's holster after being interviewed. The attempt failed and he subsequently moved to Boston, becoming bitter and isolated.
Joe's body needs to be kept in storage until spring when the ground thaws and he can be buried. Lee remains in Manchester until the delayed funeral. Over time, Patrick and Lee reestablish their bonds. Lee comes through when Patrick has a panic attack while rifling through the freezer, as he has been constantly bothered by the thought of his father on ice for several months. Conflict continues to arise when Lee refuses to make small talk with the mother of Patrick's girlfriend, Sandy, so that Patrick and Sandy can have sex. Patrick thinks Lee is trying to distance himself from him, especially because Lee is doing all he can to wrap things up and leave Manchester.
Patrick's mother Elise learns of the situation and offers to allow Patrick to move in with her, having found religion and sobriety with her new Christian fiancé, Jeffrey. During an awkward meal with them, Patrick finds himself unable to connect with Elise. Elise's hurried departure from the room is followed by the sound of bottles and glass, to Jeffrey's concern. Patrick is later unsettled when his mother's controlling fiancé emails him insisting on being an intermediary in the future, saying that it is best for her.
Meanwhile, Lee runs into a remarried Randi and her newborn baby. She expresses great remorse for her treatment of him during the divorce and asks to reconnect. A distraught Lee cannot find the words to respond and leaves before he becomes emotional, parting with the phrase: "There's nothing there." She sobs as he walks away. Lee expresses his rage by picking a fight with strangers at a bar, only to be rescued by George.
Lee arranges for George and his wife to act as legal guardians for Patrick. When an emotional Patrick asks why Lee staying isn't an option, Lee admits that he cannot bear living in Manchester anymore. During a walk after Joe's funeral, Lee tells Patrick that he is searching for a new residence with an extra room, so that Patrick can visit whenever he wants. In a final scene, Lee and Patrick go fishing on Joe's refurbished boat that Patrick has inherited.
On September 6, 2014, it was announced that Matt Damon would re-team with filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea. They had previously worked together on the 2011 film Margaret. Originally, the film was going to be directed by Damon, but due to scheduling complications, Lonergan was set to direct instead, while Damon would stay involved as producer and lead actor. Lonergan later said that Damon and John Krasinski had brought the idea to Lonergan, and Krasinski was initially going to act in the film. Gigi Pritzker was set to produce and finance the film through her company Odd Lot Entertainment.
Pre-production began on September 8, 2014. In early December 2014, while filming The Finest Hours, Casey Affleck revealed to The Boston Globe that he would replace Damon in the role of Lee Chandler. Affleck officially replaced Damon on January 5, 2015. Michelle Williams was added to the cast on January 9, 2015, as Affleck's character's wife.
In March 2015, it was reported that Sierra / Affinity had come aboard to finance the film, while Kimberly Steward would produce and finance through her company K Period Media, Kevin J. Walsh through his company B Story, Chris Moore through CMP, and Damon through his company Pearl Street Films. The film was executive produced by Josh Godfrey, John Krasinski, Declan Baldwin, and Bill Migliore; Pritzker was no longer attached to produce. Kyle Chandler signed onto the film on February 24, 2015, cast as Affleck's character's older brother. In April 2015, Lucas Hedges joined the cast of the film. It was later revealed Erica McDermott had also joined the cast.
The film takes place in New England. Principal photography began on March 23, 2015, in the namesake town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. On the second day, filming took place elsewhere on the North Shore, at locations in Beverly, Gloucester, Swampscott, Lynn, and Salem.
The film had its world premiere on January 23, 2016, at the Sundance Film Festival. Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film for $10 million, beating out Sony Pictures Classics, Universal Pictures, Lionsgate, and Fox Searchlight. This was the second largest disclosed purchase, behind The Birth of a Nation at $17.5 million. Roadside Attractions, which Lionsgate owns, was later announced to be co-distributing the film with Amazon.
The film was screened at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016, the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2016, the New York Film Festival on October 1, 2016, and the BFI London Film Festival on October 11, 2016. The film was theatrically released on November 18, 2016. The film will be available to stream on Amazon in the US on February 7, 2017.
The film began a limited release on November 18, 2016, and grossed $256,498 from four theaters for the weekend, good for a per-theater average of $64,125. It began a wide release on December 16, 2016, opening against Rogue One and Collateral Beauty, and grossed $4.2 million, finishing 6th at the box office.
Manchester by the Sea received universal acclaim, with praise going to Lonergan's direction and screenplay and the performances of Affleck, Williams and Hedges. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96%, based on 219 reviews, with an average rating of 8.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Manchester by the Sea delivers affecting drama populated by full-bodied characters, marking another strong step forward for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 96 out of 100, based on 52 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". In a positive review from Matt Zoller Seitz of Rogerebert.com, it stated "While it's abundantly obvious that Lee is a devastated man still picking through the wreckage of a past life, the film takes its sweet time revealing the nature of the disaster that befell him."
Manchester by the Sea received six nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Williams) and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first-ever film released by a digital streaming service to be nominated for Best Picture.
Affleck won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama; the film was nominated for four additional awards at the 74th ceremony: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (for Williams) and Best Screenplay.
Manchester by the Sea received six nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Original Screenplay. Affleck won Best Actor in a Leading Role and Lonergan won Best Original Screenplay.