Everyone in Hollywood knows that if you want some good jaw-clenching you go to an Affleck brother. To older brother Ben for the big budget moves, for a chin dimple that looks good in a bow-tie or Batsuit. And to younger brother Casey for something a little more low key. Casey may have the jaw that is less defiantly handsome, a chin that is a little smaller, weaker and more upturned, but that jaw’s acting skills in Manchester By The Sea are off the charts.As Lee, a man withdrawn and weighed down by grief amid the beautiful but bitter frost of a coastal Massachusetts town, Affleck’s Oscar glory seems assured, particularly following his Golden Globe win. There’s a single scene, with Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife Randy, that could win awards all by itself, where she talks and cries and meanwhile Affleck barely says a word, casting his sad eyes to the horizon, desperately shifting his chin this way and that, looking for an exit. He doesn’t have the words. He is adrift.
Why? We find out in flashbacks. In the present, Lee is a janitor at some housing blocks in Boston. By day he unclogs tenants’ loos and scrapes snow from the porch. By night, he goes to bars alone and looks for men to fight. Then he gets a call you know he has been expecting: his brother Joe has died. He drives up to his hometown, Manchester in Essex County, an idyllic little place with pastel houses and boats bobbing on the water, a bright sun always trying to break through the biting cold. His gawky teenage nephew Patrick, played brilliantly by Lucas Hedges, is there, and loner Lee finds himself unwittingly and unwillingly responsible for him.