Every year at Sundance you can count on at least a couple of movies to emerge as obvious Oscars movies. This time there were two that really stood out. One was Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation, which has hit a bit of a snag lately; and the other was Kennth Lonergan's searing coastal drama Manchester by the Sea, the director's follow-up to the legendarily troubled Margaret. It's a little crazy to think this is only Lonergan's third movie since 2000, again because he's faced so many production problems and behind the scenes lawsuits, but at least this one is arriving with a minimum of headaches.
Starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams, the film centers on a troubled Boston handyman who is called back to his hometown to care for his ailing brother's son. And with his return come a flood of old memories and conflicts from his ex-wife and the townspeople. It's a film I had great respect for, calling it "true and deeply human" while questioning whether it could be a box office success. Prestige and awards will surely come, but this is a movie about grief and those are a notoriously tough sell.
Manchester by the Sea opens November 18th.