Manchester by the Sea

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Manchester by the Sea Movie Poster Image
Searing, insightful drama has intense themes, swearing.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 137 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Grief can change you -- it can even disable you, but somehow you'll find a way out of the fog. Also, you may not think you're up for a monumental task, but you might surprise yourself if love is your motivation. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lee is detached and angry, but he cares enormously for his nephew and wants badly to do right by him, even if he might not have the tools to be a surrogate father. Patrick is a teenager who's trying to find his way out of tragic circumstances; he manages to have empathy and even a sense of humor, even if he sometimes acts out and gets combative.

Violence

One character can be a hothead, getting in to bar fights and punching his fist into a window. A fire consumes an entire house and the people in it; they're shown afterward in body bags. Lots of arguing.

Sex

A teenager is shown trying to put the moves on some girls. Teens are also shown in various states of undress, though there's no actual nudity. Frank talk about sex and using condoms. 

Language

Constant strong language includes "f--k," "c--t," "hell," "a--hole," and "bullsh-t." Sometimes kids swear in front of or at adults.

Consumerism

Brands/labels seen or mentioned include Jeep, Toyota, iPhone, Nalgene, Volvo, Champion athletic wear.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are showing plowing through beers, sometimes to excess. A major plot point revolves around what a character does when drunk. Another character is an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Manchester by the Sea is a searing, deeply affecting drama about a man (Casey Affleck) who loses his brother and must then raise his teenage nephew. It's full of intense material, including death, grief, marital strife, anger, and disenchantment, all of which make it too intense for younger viewers. Expect disturbing scenes of a man struggling to manage his anger, as well as constant swearing (including "f--k" and "c--t"). There's also frank discussion about sex (including safe sex) among teens, and some partial nudity. Adults drink, sometimes to excess, and a character is an alcoholic.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJ G November 25, 2016

Dreary and Despairing

This movie is a train wreck. While the scenery and acting are excellent, the story line goes from bad to worse. If you want to see a movie where the lead chara... Continue reading
Parent of a 15 and 17 year old Written byMoviegoer Mom December 2, 2016

Tragic film is well done

With excellent acting by Michelle Williams, Casey Affleck, and of course Lucas Hedges, this film will receive much acclaim, deservedly so. Parents and teens sho... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBooklover41899 December 4, 2016

Bitter-sweet story about decisions, family, and addiction

This movie is very moving and sad. I would only recommend for very mature teens and adults due mature themes and constant profanity. CONTENT: (contains spoile... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHi ppl December 3, 2016

Realities of life in Manchester by the sea

This is a wonderful movie. It is passionate and lifelike. In a painful, gut wrenching way it resembeles the painful life that too many people have. This is no f... Continue reading

What's the story?

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has steered clear of his native MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, a waterside town in Massachusetts, for years, driven away by a horrific family tragedy. His only remaining links are his beloved brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), and his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is content -- in a manner of speaking -- to work as a janitor for a housing complex, to drink his frustrations away at a local bar at the end of the day, and to stay in his ground-floor apartment, alone. But when Lee's brother dies, leaving him in charge of his estate and guardian to Patrick, Lee is forced to return home and stay, at least until he figures out what his next move is. Michelle Williams co-stars as Lee's ex-wife. 

Is it any good?

Kenneth Lonergan's searing drama about grief, family, and acceptance is made even more powerful by its deep well of empathy and its unforgettable performances, particularly Affleck's. Manchester by the Sea treads a path we've seen at the movies before -- the mourning after a loss and how that loss affects everyone left behind -- it but does so with stunning compassion. The film's lack of artifice in mining its tough subject matter sets it apart, as does the way it balances all sorts of emotions, including humor in the darkest of days, to create a real sense of humanity. (Lonergan has always been wonderful at this.)

Even more impressive is how the movie reveals an even deeper layer of grief beneath the one we're first presented with, one that will leave viewers broken-hearted, just like its leads. If there's a flaw in Manchester, it's that in the end, we still only have a slippery sense of who Lee is and what he will become. (Also somewhat unsatisfying is how it handles the character of Patrick's mother.) But if you see the film with any bit of unexpressed sorrow hiding inside you, don't expect to leave the theater unscathed: It could break you.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Manchester by the Sea handles the subject of grief. How do Lee, Patrick, and other characters work through their loss? Can you think of other movies that have tackled similar themes?

  • Is Lee a hero or an anti-hero? Does the movie make him sympathetic? How?

  • How is drinking portrayed? Are there realistic consequences? Why is that important?

  • The film shows teenagers exploring their sexuality. Does it do so responsibly?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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