Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
TIFF16 Film #16
Reason for pick – Serious buzz from Sundance ( and Eli gave it 5 stars ;) )
My goodness can Casey Affleck act!
A story of pain that can't be erased by time is revealed, layer by layer, expertly by Kenneth Lonergan and his brilliant cast.
I don’t know if it’s a New England thing, but while watching the first thing that came to mind was Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s career starting passion project, Good Will Hunting. There seems to be an Eastern Seaboard authenticity that Casey just owns .. perhaps more than his brother.
Affleck’s feisty performance is enough to blow even veteran actors off the screen, yet alone a 20 year old with only half a dozen or so credits under his belt. Not so with Lucas Hedges, who holds his own in every scene, and threatens to steal of few of his own ( with the generosity of Affleck ). It helps that those previous half dozen films were with the likes of Wes Anderson, Terry Gilliam, and Jason Reitman, me thinks.
The always reliable Michelle Williams plays a small but significant role with a critical scene that sets up the final trajectory of the film. Alas, I think it was a bit overplayed, but I believe this is more on director / writer Kenneth Lonergan than her, and what follows justifies the dramatics. There’s also a brief part for Matthew Broderick as a wonderfully uncomfortably creepy stepdad that’s completely worthy of praise.
I’m not really that familiar with Lonergan, as I try to avoid silly Robert De Niro comedies like Analyze This / Analyze That, whose screenplay he was responsible for. I felt he missed crafting a brilliant screenplay for Rocky and Bullwinkle, that was completely within his grasp, by introducing a hollywoodesque subplot. I did enjoy the much maligned Gangs of New York, though, which was also from his pen. None of this previous work, except for an inkling in Gangs, seem connected to Manchester by the Sea which is filled with authenticity and heart.
And for someone steeped in Hollywood, man, did he land a perfect ending.