‘Manchester By The Sea’ Blu-ray DVD Review: No Closure Here
Manchester By The Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, is a classic family drama mixed with the darker-toned snark and sarcasm of a grieving family.
The film follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) as he faces the second most significant tragedy in his life. While the first was a fire that took away his three young children and the love of his first wife Randi (Michelle Williams), this one brings him the responsibility of raising a 16-year-old after the early death of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) leaves him with the sole guardianship of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
Prior to his brother’s death Joe is a silent and reclusive janitor and handyman in Boston. He is easily agitated and seems to lack the empathy to pick up on social cues, especially those that involve attachment or romantic advances. As scenes from Lee’s past begin to splice the narrative of Lee’s present, the audience can see how much his children’s death, which was caused by a fire he left unattended, has changed his character and has also left him completely unprepared for subsequent grief.
Lee is no way uncaring for his new charge, he is just unwilling to be anyone’s permanent emotional anchor, preferring to be the caring yet distant uncle he has been this whole time. This story is unique in the fact that Lee never really changes his attitude about Patrick from of the start of the film until the end. Manchester By The Sea subverts the age old trope where an unsuspecting bachelor finds his shallow life fulfilled when he is forced to take on the role of a parent. By the time the credits roll, Lee has untied himself from all the day-to-day responsibilities related to Patrick. He makes himself available, but just as an occasionally parenting figure. While Patrick stays in Manchester with a new guardian, Lee once again finds himself working as a janitor in Boston.
The movie masterfully captures slice-of-life moments and isn’t afraid of including the more awkward moments that make up real relationships. For a moment we believe Lee will find a new perspective on life as he grows closer to his nephew and begins to encounter people from his past, such as his ex-wife Randi. Yet time and time again he shoots down any kindling potential for happiness, including accepting his ex-wife’s need to apologize for the hatred she felt towards him for their kids’s death. The most growth comes from Patrick, which includes a very superficial vie for romance as he tries to get into his second girlfriend’s pants, a botched attempt to get into contact with the formerly-alcoholic mother that abandoned him and his father as a child, and growing more attached to Lee.
The Blu-ray DVD offers viewers access to three deleted scenes: a brief clip of Lee’s children’s burial, a phone call from Joe’s aloof ex-wife, and a scene between Joe and Lee on the boat. It also includes a commentary by director and writer Kenneth Lonergan. Instead of offering new footage for this, the commentary is offered as an audio that can be played over that of the film, and requires another, unnecessarily long, two-hour investment from viewers. There’s also a short video on the making of the film that includes commentary by the film’s actors.
While an enjoyable watch, Manchester By The Sea leaves its audience with an unsatisfying end that to some may feel unfinished. It makes a point of showing that although revisiting one’s past may open you up a little, it won’t fix any longstanding issues. To put it in short terms, the film is about a broken person that remains mostly broken, and will leave viewers with little sense of closure on Lee and Patrick’s lives.