Manchester By The Sea is a tragedy and a comedy starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Its Golden Globe nominations are no surprise — director Kenneth Lonergan is the definition of auteur in today’s Hollywood, a man who famously sticks to his vision even when it means a film may never find an audience (see the travails of his Margaret). Lonergan — whose brilliant, moving, hilarious You Can Count On Me (2000) remains among this century’s best films — has big star friends who help make sure his vision sees the light of day. That support really worked for Manchester By The Sea — which was produced by Matt Damon. (Damon played Mr. Aaron in Lonergan’s Margaret.)
Here are some facts to help explain why Manchester By The Sea is so unique:
Lonergan has said “I don’t think there’s a big difference between comedy and drama.”
Lonergan wrote it too — he’s not just the director. Just like all his films. (Vision thing.)
Matt Damon was supposed to direct it, but he thought it was too much Lonergan’s voice and it had to be all Lonergan.
It’s just like your family, even if you’re in very different economic circumstances — meaning nothing is resolved.
Lonergan says Affleck was “really brilliant,” carrying a very heavy emotional load with “simplicity and truthfulness.”
Lonergan’s dramas are so sharp because he cut his teeth as a playwright. Check out This Is Our Youth.
Lonergan is a big time Hollywood film director, yet the dead end frustration of Affleck’s character in many ways mirrors Lonergan’s own frustrations trying to get Margaret into theaters — an epic of being thwarted and humbled.