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Manchester by the Sea is tough to watch 

Casey Affleck begs for an Oscar, and we beg for more Michelle Williams

click to enlarge manchesterbythesea_trailer.jpg

Kenneth Lonergan’s previous films, You Can Count on Me and Margaret, saw Laura Linney and Anna Paquin in respectively deep, nuanced, layered parts. So it’s a shame that his otherwise very fine Manchester by the Sea strands Michelle Williams, as half of a couple torn apart by tragedy, so that Casey Affleck can mope around Mas- sachusetts. The timeline is tricky in the beginning—watch the snow; this was clearly filmed during Boston’s winter from hell in 2015—but the gist is Affleck’s Lee is awarded custody of a teen boy when his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. But Patrick (Lucas Hedges) doesn’t want to move to Boston and Lee can’t stay in Manchester due to a tragedy, threaded into the movie, that’s turned him into a zombie. Williams manages to find some grace notes to play in her too-small, stereotypical ball-busting wife part, but like most of the movie she makes room for Affleck to beg for an Oscar. This is a tough film to watch, but elegant in its worn-in way—Lonergan is a terrific writer. Too bad he didn’t finish every character.

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