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Manchester by the Sea

also known as “Manchester-By-The-Sea,” “Manchester frente al mar,” “Manchester À Beira-Mar”
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language throughout and some sexual content.

Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes

Moral Rating: Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Drama
Length: 2 hr. 17 min.
Year of Release: 2016
USA Release: November 18, 2016 (4 theaters)
November 25, 2016 (48 theaters)
December 16, 2016 (1,201 theaters)
DVD: February 21, 2017
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Relevant Issues

death of a father

Issue of pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

the power of family love


About hope

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on Christian Answers—full-length motion picture.


looking for a job

teenage sexual promiscuity

fornication in the Bible

SEXUAL LUST—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

Teen Qs—Christian Answers® for teenagers
Teens—Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring Casey AffleckLee Chandler
Michelle WilliamsRandi
Kyle Chandler … Joe Chandler
Matthew BroderickRodney
Lucas Hedges … Patrick
Liam McNeill … Josh
C.J. Wilson … George
Heather Burns … Jill
Tate Donovan … Hockey Coach
Josh Hamilton …
See all »
Director Kenneth Lonergan
Producer The Affleck/Middleton Project
B Story
See all »
Distributor: Roadside Attractions. Trademark logo.
Roadside Attractions
, a division of Lionsgate Films

Where can a man turn when death strikes his family, but he has no hope in God? Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a Boston janitor living a hermitic life fueled with rage and alcohol, until he’s called back to his hometown to bury his brother and care for his 16-year-old nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). There are whispers about Lee all over the fishing village where he grew up. It’s clear he’s a legend, but for what? The dramatic question is whether Lee can escape the memories of his past and start caring for Patrick, who’s desperate not to leave his friends and school behind.

When Jesus witnessed despair around Him because of Lazarus’ death, He still wept, though resurrection was coming next. Similarly, if you watch “Manchester by the Sea,” you may weep the tears that Lee Chandler cannot allow himself to release over his past sins and family members now represented by gravestones. We come to empathize with this man, not because he breaks down sobbing over his past, but because the filmmakers fill in the blanks with plentiful flashbacks to help us understand why Lee behaves with such quiet rage.

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

Affleck gives a powerful performance, and Michelle Williams plays the small, memorable role of Randi—a woman from Lee’s past. If the movie stayed focused mainly on Lee, it may have lasted 90 minutes. However, the movie is 137 minutes because many scenes detail how Patrick salves his pain by trying to have sex with his two teen girlfriends and succeeds with his Uncle Lee’s assistance. No doubt this is indeed how some American teenage boys would try to deal with loss, and I don’t expect characters without Christ to act like perfect Christians. But it was hard for me to keep caring about Patrick while he constantly complains, demands money, and fornicates—he’s mostly annoying. Again, this is probably a rather accurate depiction of how some teens might react to being orphaned, but it grew wearisome.

SEXUAL LUST—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan usually works as a playwright (turning up briefly in a memorable cameo), and his heavy dialog may remind you of being in a theater. He keeps the film mysterious and interesting until the end. I was surprised by the sudden finale, but I think Lonergan has too much respect for the character he and Affleck have created in Lee Chandler to make us try and believe he’d overcome his painful past in just a few months. There’s a scene, I won’t ruin, in which another movie star shows up in the role of a “pretty Christian” character, according to Patrick, who thinks he’s strange. Lee replies, “You know, we’re Christian, too, right?” referring to their Catholicism. Sadly, Lee’s identification with the faith doesn’t seem to make any difference in his outlook on life nor daily activities.

Though I don’t condone many of the characters’ moral choices nor their non-stop profanity, I could still recommend the film to Christian adults who can stomach a heavy drama with some great acting, humor, and solid filmmaking craft. I would not be surprised if the film wins several Oscars in 2017.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme—O.M.G. (9), “G*d d*mn” (6), “Jesus Christ” (3), “Jesus” (5), “Oh G*d” (3), “For Chr*st's sakes” (2), “h*ll” (4), mother-f****r (3), f-words (83), s-word (12), a**hole (7), a** (4), S.O.B. (1) / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—What was the point of the movie? I believe it was a very subtle message about life without God. The mother who married a “born-again hit you over the head with Jesus” type is rejected as weird. Jesus is pictured walking on water over the mantle in their home and a little later in the movie, walking on water on the sea. But the characters refuse to be influenced. Though they claim to be Christains, they don’t live that way, and live a miserable existence, because of their blindness.

It is a depressing movie, but one that will make you think about life and opening the door when He knocks or closing it shut. When the waters are rough, to whom shall you turn?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Larry, age 49 (USA)
Positive—This audience may not see past the heavy profanity more often found in gangster movies about the Boston area, plus the teenage sex. The main “Christian” character, recognizable mostly by the picture of Jesus on the dining room wall, is decent enough if highly controlling of Patrick’s alcoholic mother (maybe what is needed for this undeveloped character of whom we have heard only bad things?)

Perhaps the most Christian thing about the film is the way the characters, particularly the gruff, aggressive, hard cussing and often hard fisted male characters, manage to care for each other in communities and families. And there is a poignant scene of damaged love between ex-spouses.

This is a sad and melancholy film, shot in a bleak if beautiful winter, dominated by the presence of death and loss. There is no sense of God or an afterlife making anything better. Nor of clichés or resolutions. This is more “art film” than entertainment, with exceptional acting and slow development.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Stanley Hirtle, age 72 (USA)
Negative—This is a movie that reflects life without God and without any moral principles whatsoever. It is upsetting to me to think that there really are people whose lives are this self destructive. Every sentence has the F-word, at least once, people are mean and disrespectful to each other, sex is a heartless amusement with no responsibility, violent outbursts erupt regularly. To add to these themes are attempted suicide, drug use, plenty of alcohol.

I saw no humor at all in this movie. I was sad to see the agony experienced by the main characters, but I did not feel any sympathy for them. Their lives were the result of their own sinful behavior. That the film is well made with terrific acting is clear. But for me, with my Christian worldview, I thought it was a depiction of the misery of life without God, and if someone gleans that lesson, I suppose the movie is worth seeing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 70 (USA)
Negative—My husband and I viewed this movie with 2 other couples. All of us are believers and were totally shocked by the language, sexual scenes, and disrespect of other people. We would not recommend this to anyone, Christian or non-believers. Don’t waste time or money viewing this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Sharon B, age 70 (USA)
Negative—The script was a true slice of life—very well written. The acting was excellent. I loved the music—very moving—and the photography was top notch. So what’s not to like? Well, I’ll tell ya: it’s the total absence of spirituality! I realize that faith in God does not take away the deep pain of grief from the loss of family. However, faith tempers the grief and helps us to view life from an eternal perspective.

In one scene, the characters acknowledge they are Catholic, and they are Christian, but, nowhere, absolutely nowhere during their wrenching expressions of grief does anyone say “But I know they’re now in our Lord’s care and that brings me some peace.” Silly me, why should I expect that from the same old Godless Hollywood.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Leonardo, age 74 (USA)
Negative—The movie was boring and dragged out too long. This movie and the 2 people in it are up for an award?? Why? I thought that Casey Affleck was just being a whiny child. I would not recommend this movie to anybody.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
Jamie, age 40 (USA)
Negative—Thought it was jumping all over the place. I found it very depressing. I expected a little humor, as well as drama. I didn't find the main character that engaging. Sorry I wasted my money, and I'm from Boston and could have done a better job. I go to the movies to be entertained or to learn something.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
Jean Boyer, age 67 (USA)
Negative—My partner and I were recommended to watch this movie. I am 75 years old and have seen thousands of movies, but, for the first time in my life, we walked out halfway through. Appalling acting, some of the actors looked as if they did not know their part or what to say, just stood there limp. The dialogue was puerile, settings and switching times was too much to take in, and the storyline was pathetic, to say the least.

All in all, how the h*ck does it win awards? Especially when every other sentence had the “F” word, totally unnecessary, and, if that is all the writer can come up with to shock us, he should try another job!

Would love to see a nice old fashioned movie!
John Dooley, age 75 (Australia)
Negative—I planned to see this movie. I waited until it came to the cheaper movie place. I thought it was going to be a most enjoyable film—I was shocked to hear every other word was F***! I was very offended! I left the theater 10 minutes after the movie started. High Bible Standards will bless hearts, leaving out dirty words, nudity, etc. I am praying that God gets thru the Hollywood filmmakers. Besides, calling good evil—and evil good—causes hurting people in their spirit! The good old films in the 50s—which I grew up on—were clean films. American born-again Christians should stand up and stay away from these films! The real Jesus Christ is coming back anytime! …I say this: Walking with the Lord Jesus will CAUSE you to adore Him!
Bob Bateman, age 74 (USA)
Negative—The film, with its flashbacks, is well-developed, and the music relates beautifully to the morose and painful aspects of the lead character’s dysfunctional life. However, the fact that it was necessary to use the “F” word 100 times in this story makes no sense to me at all. To say that this film is not appropriate for children begs a lot of questions. It is not appropriate for normal adults! I know of no-one who speaks this way. What’s the point? The use of foul language added nothing to the plot’s development. I’m actually sorry that I went to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Dave, age 70 (USA)
Movie Critics
…A superb performance by Casey Affleck and a haunting sense of place give flesh and blood to Kenneth Lonergan's emotionally overwhelming third feature…
Justin Chang, Variety
…instantly on the map of classics…
Joe Morgenstern, The wall Street Journal
…A dense, expert drama of broken New England families…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…a difficult movie in every way… We are left with not an inspirational coda or devastating moral, but … an ellipsis. Broken relationships that haven't been mended. Damaged souls that haven't been healed. …Wonderfully acted and deeply felt… [1/5]
Paul Asay, Plugged In

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