Manchester By The Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan (2017) BBFC cert: 15

A torrent of emotion sweeps through a sleepy harbour town in this powerful family drama.

Beautifully written, performed and photographed, this is a grown up film destined to sail straight to the Oscars.

Casey Affleck is favourite to bag the best actor award and is heart achingly good as hardworking handyman, Lee.

When his older brother Joe, passes away, Lee is called back to his home town of Manchester by the Sea. It’s a rough edged port, full of sad charm.

The ever dependable Kyle Chandler creates a lasting impression in fleeting flashback as Joe, bequeathing his most valuable possession to his brothers care.

Lee is far from prepared to be named as the legal guardian of his sixteen year old teenage nephew, Patrick.

Lucas Hedges is superbly sarcastic as the wannabee musician, struggling to persuade Lee to let him stay in the family home.

These two damaged souls rub up against each other, stuck together and seemingly indifferent to repairing a once tender relationship.

Plus Lee can’t avoid her running into his sharp-mouthed ex-wife.

Bringing plenty of bite to her role, Michelle Williams has less screen time than we’d like but she shares the most effecting scenes.

The story has sympathy for its characters. A less humane film may have condemned the for their failings but its clear they’re suffering enough.

Director and writer Kenneth Lonergan’s day job is as a playwright, and it’s easy to imagine this being adapted from or to the stage.

Relentless squalls of black humour and sharp dialogue flow from a beautifully crafted script, keeping our spirits up as the script plunges into some emotionally testing waters.

A haunting soundtrack achieves a miraculous harmony alongside merry pop tunes. Guaranteed to make you cry, it’s also surprisingly and consistently funny, so you’ll be laughing through your tears.

Everyone should find time to visit.

@ChrisHunneysett

Carol

Director. Todd Haynes (2015)

There’s tremendous quality to admire in this intelligent, assured and elegant period piece.

A shame it lacks the drama the tremendous acting, design and writing promise but don’t deliver.

It’s based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith who also wrote The Talented Mr Ripley (1999).

Cate Blanchett was award nominated for that film and certainly will be again her immaculate performance here.

In the title role she’s a moneyed, married mother who begins an affair with shop girl Therese.

Rooney Mara’s quiet reserve essays a delicate flowering of awareness.

It’s her finest performance to date and hopefully it will be recognised as such by the Academy.

They take a road trip with a camera in one suitcase and a gun in another.

This leads to a showdown with Carol’s seemingly decent husband, played by the dependable Kyle Chandler.

The presence of the gun acknowledges the problem with a script which doesn’t have a lot going on once the couple consummate their relationship.

So the gun is clumsily thrown in to add a frisson of drama where none exists.

As the romance develops and what obstacles exist seem to melt away, we realise we’re witnessing a beautifully played and sumptuous soap opera.