A grieving and detached maintenance man (Casey Affleck), living in near isolation in a Boston area one-room apartment of the complex he tends, returns to the fishing community of his youth when he is notified of his brother's (Kyle Chandler) passing. As old devastating wounds are torn open, he learns he has been appointed custodianship of his teenaged nephew (Lucas Hedges), a responsibility that would likely force him to return home for good and confront his past. Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea is a complex, intricately woven drama, taking on tones both operatic and tragic, while presenting on the surface a humanistic, often humorous, keen-eyed seemingly simplistic small town story. Affleck has never been better, always in tune to his sympathetic, emotionally stunted character and Michelle Williams, playing his ex-wife, shows what an exceptional talent she is, most memorably in a trumpted, cathartic scene played by the duo towards the end of the picture. Chandler also brings his usual stoic resolve to the picture, to great effect.
**** out of ****