A major breakout at Sundance 2016 that was picked up by Amazon Studios for $10 million, writer-director Kenny Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea places Casey Affleck as a force to be reckoned with after the thesp won in the Best Actor category in Drama tonight. This follows his Best Actor win from the National Board of Review, which also awarded the picture with Best Picture, Screenplay and Breakthrough Performance for its young co-star Lucas Hedges.
Manchester By the Sea was nominated for five Golden Globes this year but only took one. However, it has also been nominated for four SAG Awards, five Independent Spirit Awards, and Lonergan was nominated for best original screenplay by the WGA. Affleck was last nominated for Oscar for his supporting work in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
It wasn’t long ago that no streaming service could conceivably best Netflix in terms of awards clout, but going on to play a number of high-profile festivals, including Telluride and Toronto, Amazon is in the awards conversation as a serious contender for the first time with Manchester By The Sea.
Initially conceived of by producers Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Lonergan was brought on to write the screenplay with the idea that Damon would star. When schedules changed, Affleck stepped in to take on the demanding work, based on Damon’s statement that he would only surrender the role for the talented younger Affleck.
In the film, Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a solemn, soft-spoken Bostonian janitor who must look after his nephew Patrick following the untimely death of his brother. Placed in a situation he would have never asked for, Chandler finds in Patrick an unlikely comedic foil and intimate partner in grief. “The happy moments and the very, very tragic moments in this character’s life are very hard to pick apart, even though they’re very distinct,” Affleck told Deadline in November. “It was very much about how all these memories are all mingled together: it’s what makes up a life.”
He plays the role of a father who lost his children with perfection, seesawing from anger to the vacant stare of emptiness.