Acclaimed 'Manchester by the Sea' wins at National Board of Review Awards

'Manchester' stars Casey Affleck as a janitor who goes back to his hometown to take care of his nephew. The National Board of Review deemed it the best movie of 2016.

Claire Folger/Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios/AP
'Manchester by the Sea' stars Casey Affleck (l.) and Lucas Hedges (r.).

The drama “Manchester by the Sea,” which stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is the best movie released in 2016, according to the National Board of Review, following a slew of positive reviews for the film.

“Manchester” centers on Lee Chandler, who goes back to his Massachusetts hometown after Lee’s brother (played by Kyle Chandler) dies in order to care for his nephew (Lucas Hedges).

The movie is directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan. The National Board of Review also honored him, naming Mr. Lonergan’s script as best original screenplay, while Mr. Affleck won the best actor prize.

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins received the award for best director, while Naomie Harris won the best supporting actress prize for her work in Mr. Jenkins’ film. Amy Adams won the best actress award for “Arrival,” while Jeff Bridges won the best supporting actor award for the film “Hell or High Water.” 

What about “Manchester” has made critics admire the film so much? Monitor film critic Peter Rainer wrote in his review of the film, in which he gave “Manchester” an A grade, that it’s “a movie about unremitting grief and yet it has a boisterousness, a comic twirl, that makes it much truer to the zigzags of life than most similarly themed movies that simply pile on the gloom.” Instead, Lonergan is “true to the intricacies and rhythms of family strife.” 

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times agrees that the film manages to have humor despite its weighty themes, writing that “this is one of the funniest films about coping with tragedy I’ve ever seen.” Mr. Roeper also agrees that the movie is good at depicting relationships between people of multiple generations, writing that “one of the many, many things ‘Manchester’ gets just right is the dynamic between parents (and uncles, and the parents of friends) and teenagers.”

Los Angeles Times writer Kenneth Turan also adds praise for the actors’ work, writing that the film has “searingly realistic performances by stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges,” while also praising the movie’s tone, writing that the film “conveys such an exact sense of how life is lived, of the ways wrenching tragedy can coexist with off-handed humor, that it’s hard at times to remember that this is a written piece and not a real situation captured on the fly.” 

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