“Walking away from last night’s Manchester by the Sea screening, I could really only think about Casey Affleck’s face. We all assess the pain of others by studying their faces. How badly are they hurt? How withered have they become? For Affleck’s character, Lee Chandler, what he wants and needs is to be alone in his heartache, but that’s the one thing he can’t have because he’s connected to people who rely on him.
“To go where Affleck goes in Manchester by the Sea is unthinkable. To watch someone endure something most of us could not — the most horrible thing anyone could ever imagine — is not easy. This is a film about the remnants of accidental, sudden loss and how we find people we can count on to help save whatever is left in the wake of it.
“Manchester by the Sea, as you already know from what’s been said about it, is one of the best films of the year. It’s easily Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan’s best work.
“What I saw in Affleck’s face, finally, is what I discovered when I looked and looked. What I saw in my mind when I walked away from it and tried to sleep was Affleck himself imagining that kind of loss. He knows what I know, what any person who has raised a child knows: that there is nothing else you are put on earth to do except take care of that child, or those children. A primal urge and a divine directive. And one that can’t be undone unless you are someone disconnected from it. This is not a film about someone disconnected from it.
“Sad and beautiful, Manchester by the Sea is not a dark film, nor really a depressing one. It’s just about living with the truth laid bare. And that might be, in the end, the only thing that matters.”