Sublimely modulated performances and a deeply felt sense of place highlight "Manchester by the Sea." Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (2012's "Margaret") displays a keen interest in his characters' lives and their intricacy of emotions. These are not merely pawns to a script, but the kind of layered, well-observed people whom one could imagine existing once the movie proper is over. This is fortunate, because Lonergan is also one for authenticity above all else. He refuses Hollywood conventions and tidy narrative bows, drifting alongside his human figures while promising none of them the closure viewers have been preconditioned to expect. "Manchester by the Sea" takes its sweet time—some may think it is too slow and too meandering, and a tighter edit wouldn't be total sacrilege—but there is also something to be said for a filmmaker confident enough to allow his every scene to breathe without the constant worry of pushing his narrative forward.
When older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies suddenly from congestive heart failure, Boston-based handyman Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) returns to his blustery New England hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to plan the funeral and stay with Joe's 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). When Patrick was younger, he and Uncle Lee were close buddies. In more recent years, they have drifted apart, the guilt Lee feels over a devastating loss in his past pulling him away from his family and loved ones. When the reading of Joe's will reveals his request for his brother to be Patrick's legal guardian, Lee finds himself questioning his ability to care for his nephew. For a man facing depression and the inability to come to terms with tragedy, he is going to have to make some tough decisions if he hopes to be there for Patrick as Joe wanted.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review