Telluride: Casey Affleck Feted as Sundance Sensation 'Manchester by the Sea' Hits the Rockies (Analysis)

Manchester By The Sea - Casey Affleck -still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of TIFF

On Saturday afternoon, the Telluride Film Festival screened a film that caused considerable chatter at the Sundance Film Festival back in January: Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea, a drama about how the premature death of a man impacts his brother, played by Casey Affleck (an Oscar nominee for 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), and son, played by Lucas Hedges (the very gifted 20-year-old son of About a Boy screenwriter Peter Hedges).

There's a reason why Amazon spent a not-inconsiderable $10 million back then to acquire the film, which Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions will release Nov. 18. Nobody does intra-family strife like Lonergan, the venerated playwright of This Is Our Youth and writer-director of 2000's You Can Count on Me. And, just as happened in Park City, festivalgoers in the Rockies laughed, cried and warmly applauded his latest work.

While Manchester's subject matter may sound dour, especially at a running time of two hours and 15 minutes, it actually blends moments of profound sadness (sniffles were audible throughout Chuck Jones Cinema, particularly during flashback scenes pairing Affleck and Michelle Williams) with moments of great humor (Lonergan's witty words and Hedges' smartass delivery are a perfect match).

Affleck, who has lived much of his life in the shadow of his more famous older brother Ben, reminds everyone which sibling is the better actor with his striking performance as a man nursing his own wounds while simultaneously trying to do the right thing for his nephew. He plays moments of quiet and moments of explosion equally effectively and affectingly. And, while Hedges holds his own and will be in the running for a best supporting actor nomination, Affleck, who is being honored with a tribute at this year's Telluride fest, is the heart and soul of the film and has a solid shot at landing his first-ever best actor nomination.

Don't rule out Williams for a best supporting actress nom, either, although her screen time is quite brief. And a best picture nom also is possible, although it strikes me as an uphill climb, since this is a film that is likely to engender respect and admiration more than passion or enthusiasm.