A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
The film shows teenagers exploring their sexuality. Does it do so responsibly?
- In theaters: November 18, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2017
- Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
- Director: Kenneth Lonergan
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some sexual content
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Golden Globe
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.