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By Megan Bianco
Because the Academy Awards “Best Actress” category is looking to be one of the most competitive at the Oscars next season, Casey Affleck is really lucky no one is paying any attention to the “Best Actor” department. All throughout the festival circuit earlier this year, the younger Affleck has been getting tons of hype as the best male performance of 2016 as the lead in Kenneth Lonergan’s new feature Manchester by the Sea. And it is certainly a great, emotional performance that also comes off as his most personal.
Lee Chandler (Affleck) lives a mundane life as a professional handyman around Boston when his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), dies prematurely of a heart attack. Lee visits his hometown in Manchester, Massachusetts, for the first time in a decade and is shocked to discover he’s now the legal guardian of his 16-year-old nephew, Pat (Lucas Hedges). While both Lee and Pat grieve in their own ways, we also learn of Lee’s past marriage to Randi (Michelle Williams) and discover Pat’s estranged mother, Elise (Gretchen Mol).
Lonergan has a way of creating pieces on family lifestyles that is genuine and original. This was also explored in You Can Count on Me (2000). Manchester by the Sea is indeed one of the saddest movies to hit theaters this year, but also has that realistic, if not naturally awkward, comic relief that can sometimes occur during depression. All of the cast is brilliant, but in my mind, it not only has “Best Actor” potential, but also “Best Picture.”