Manchester by the Sea was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and produced by Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward, and Matt Damon. Manchester by the Sea was Amazon’s first popular film with Oscar-recognized prestige since the company launched Amazon Studios and its Prime-based video service. Amazon acquired rights to Manchester by the Sea at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and the purchase paid off when the film was nominated for six Academy Awards in 2017. Manchester by the Sea would take home two oscars (Best Actor in a Leading Role – Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay – Kenneth Lonergan).
In the movie Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a dejected and depressed uncle and father emotionally reeling from recent tragedies in his life. The story unfolds in specific locations under commonplace circumstances that breed a sense of deep reflection and weariness. The camera pans quickly to catch site of a church a block away or lingers on power lines in between shots of Lee driving to Manchester. It serves to put the audience in the driver’s seat, breeding empathy and inviting the audience to try to feel what he feels.
The dialogue between Randi Chandler (Michelle Williams) and Lee is especially riveting during one scene towards the end of the movie. It’s not a scene of profound or articulate statements. The characters fumble over their words and struggle to convey what they’re really feeling, and the scene feels like the circumstances that life often throws at people when they are unsuspecting and unprepared. It’s those moments (the unsuspected ones that can roll around in the mind long after they’re done) and the moments of regretful reflection (the mundane times when one wishes she or he could change words or actions of the past and wonders what those words or actions might look like) that this movie majors in. And, Manchester by the Sea does it well.