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Manchester By the Sea (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 137 minutes.

Not for children.

This is a classic example of an opaque movie, about a man who cannot forgive himself, that desperately needed a good editor. Not only is it too long, which it is, but it has flashbacks that appear out of nowhere with no discernable transitions. The characters look exactly the same so thereís no way to realize that the film has gone back several years in time or flashed forward to the present. It is extraordinarily confusing. Lee (Casey Affleck) looks and dresses exactly the same in both time periods, so thereís no way to know itís a flashback until youíre halfway into it, if then.

Worse, it does not introduce the characters in a way that is meaningful, so throughout the film I was asking my friend, ďWho is that?Ē and she was as perplexed as I. The men look so much alike that itís easy to confuse them.

And, maybe I missed it, but Randi (Michelle Williams) is remarried to Josh (Liam McNeill), who appears in the middle of the film as an attorney, but thatís not revealed until one of the last scenes of the film. If I missed it, so did my companion at the film, so it definitely was not made clear during the film. This is just one example of the poor character development of the movie because other than the three principles, Lee, Lee's nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), and Randi, the other people are basically interchangeable and easily confused.

I was dreading sitting there for 2 Ĺ hours, but, amazingly, downer that it is, the acting is so good that the slow pace didnít bother me that much.

While Affleck gives a good performance as the chronically depressed Lee, there is absolutely no range required. Heís depressed, and thatís what we have to watch for 2 Ĺ hours. The more challenging performance is given by Williams as his former wife, Randi. I thought she gave an Oscar quality performance. Equally good is Lucas Hedges as Leeís nephew, Patrick, around whom the entire film revolves.

Itís a quintessential downer, with an abundance of talk, but leaving never occurred to me.