Manchester by the Sea Blu-ray Review
Thousand yard stare
With impeccable performances, the slow-burning Manchester by the Sea will cut you to the bone with a tragic, emotionally-charged narrative that defies expectations.Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's third outing is a powerful piece, navigating the murky waters of bereavement, guilt and responsibility with zero sugar-coating. It's story follows an emotionally withdrawn building caretaker whose simple existence is thrown into disarray when he has to return to his hometown to deal with the aftermath of a tragic death that leaves him in charge of a teenage boy. Playing out with multiple jumps in time, as numerous flashbacks fill in the gaps of the painful past that informs the present behaviour of the central characters, the unfolding drama eschews a standard format in favour of a more natural evolution which retains a striking unpredictability.Rightfully earning Casey Affleck an award for Best Actor, Manchester by the Sea lulls you into a bleak environment where there are more questions than answers, trading in a seemingly simple narrative of estranged family and 'growing up' but then turning expectations on a dime with an emotionally charged second act reveal that will make you reassess everything you've seen thus far. The superior storytelling, masterful editing (the non-chronological flashbacks are expertly handled) and impeccable performances leave it an utterly unmissable drama that leaves a lasting impression and carries an emotional weight concealed well within the normality of its setup.
Picture QualityManchester by the Sea washes up on UK shores with a Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Studiocanal, delivering the film with a naturally impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded high definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
The discs boasts an excellent presentation
Although digitally shot, the visuals are thoroughly filmic in style, bathed in depth and palpable texture, and brimming with impressively fine detail. There may not be anything even approaching traditional demo material on offer here - in the bleak environments and cold exteriors - but it's striking nonetheless, allowing the least likely imagery to take on a certain beauty.
The colour scheme is expectedly dour - warmer so in flashback - but glimmers of colour pepper the piece, and skin tones remain healthy, whilst the backdrop is rich with natural flourishes. Black levels are strong enough, although daytime sequences are inherently more precise, leaving us with an excellent presentation that will give audiences little to complain about.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a surprisingly bracing affair, taking you on this emotionally-charged voyage with frequent song tracks to inform the drama, and enough atmospheric nuance and dialogue prioritisation to remain a very strong offering.
The audio is also a very strong offering
Even with Affleck on hand to deliver his signature mumbling, dialogue remains clear and coherent throughout, delivered across the frontal array with distinction. There are a few nice sequences where ambience comes into play - the water-based atmospherics are rendered naturally, whilst the midnight parties engage - but nothing too immersive, although that's pretty faithful towards the material on offer. The score deserves praise for perfectly capturing the mood, and maintaining it with such verve that sometimes words are not even needed to further the narrative. It's a strong audio track that delivers the goods despite the innate limitations of the low-key drama.
ExtrasThere's a decent trifecta of extra features, headlined by an Audio Commentary from the Writer/Director himself, which is supported by a strong quarter-hour Making-of Featurette that offers up some nice Interview snippets, and rounded out by a few Deleted Scenes.
Blu-ray VerdictAn utterly unmissable drama that leaves a lasting impression
The Region B-locked UK Blu-ray boasts excellent video and audio as well as a decent selection of extra features, leaving it a strong purchase for fans of the film, and a recommended watch for all.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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