Adoption is a complicated issue. If you’re thinking about adoption, it is necessary to get an idea of what adoption entails for all members of the adoption triad. Manchester by the Sea is a movie that does a great job of showcasing adoption from the point of view of the adoptive parent, and adoptee. It is also an amazing movie in its own right.
Manchester by the Sea tells the story of Lee Chandler, a janitor living in a one room apartment in Boston. Lee’s life is a humdrum daily routine of clogged toilets, leaks, and alcoholism. He seemingly has no direction or future. Lee’s life wasn’t always this way. A series of flashbacks reveals Lee used to live in Manchester with his wife and three children. However, a dark event changed Lee’s life forever, resulting in his current state.
One day, while on the job shoveling snow, Lee receives a phone call stating that his brother Joe, who lives in Manchester, is in the hospital due to his congestive heart failure. Lee rushes to Manchester to see Joe, only for Joe to die before Lee arrives. Lee is charged with taking care of his nephew Patrick, Joe’s son, in the aftermath of Joe’s death. However, Lee is in for a surprise when he read’s Joe’s will and finds out that Joe named him Patrick’s legal guardian until Patrick turns 18. Lee doesn’t want to take on the responsibility, but attempts to fulfill the role to the best of his ability.
Manchester by the Sea focuses on Lee and Patrick’s struggles in the wake of Joe’s death. Lee struggles with what it means to be an adoptive parent while dealing with his past. Patrick struggles with his father’s death and what it means to have a new parent while balancing his busy high school routine. All the while, Patrick and Lee are living together with Lee acting as the adoptive parent. Manchester by the Sea also focuses on Lee’s past and how it relates to Lee’s ability to be a good adoptive parent.
Manchester by the Sea does a great job portraying Lee’s struggles. Casey Affleck plays the part of Lee, a tragic figure overcome by his life experiences. Affleck does a great job portraying the emotions one may feel when deciding whether to adopt a child. He also makes it clear that Lee’s character traits are the result of his past. The only qualm is that he isn’t Matt Damon, who was originally slated to play Lee’s character. However, not being Matt Damon doesn’t mean that Casey Affleck does a bad job in the role. To the contrary, Casey Affleck steals every scene he is in, making Lee a believable character facing a tough decision.
Manchester by the Sea also does a great job portraying Patrick’s struggles. Lucas Hedges plays the part of Patrick. Patrick is a high school athlete, member of a band and boyfriend to two girlfriends. He tries to juggle these roles while living with a new parent and struggling with the understandable grief he feels for his father. He also has to deal with the possibility that he might have to leave his life behind to move to Boston to live with Lee. Patrick also has to think about Joe’s boat, now his boat, how and whether he will be able to maintain it, and whether Lee will even allow him to keep it. Hedges makes Patrick’s struggles realistic without devolving into the stereotypical image of a teenage boy.
Manchester by the Sea also does a great job of telling the story via flashbacks. The flashbacks are interspersed flawlessly into short scenes and really flesh out Lee’s character. For example, Lee’s past relationship with Patrick comes out during a flashback that takes place when Lee is going down an elevator to see Joe’s body. These flashbacks draw out Lee’s tragic past throughout the course of the movie and contribute to Lee’s character development. They also highlight Lee’s relationship with Joe and Lee’s ex-wife.
The only problem from an adoption standpoint is that Manchester by the Sea doesn’t explain Joe’s reasons for naming Lee Patrick’s legal guardian. Deciding to place a child for adoption is a hard decision. As anyone at Adoption Choices of Missouri can tell you, it isn’t one to be taken lightly. Yet Joe decided to name Lee Patrick’s legal guardian without even consulting Lee. Granted, the movie makes it clear that Patrick’s mother is an alcoholic, but it doesn’t explain why Joe has so much faith in Lee. It just takes it for granted that Joe always believed in Lee and thought he would be the best choice.
Regardless, Manchester by the Sea is dramatic, funny, and entertaining. So much so that the movie doesn’t seem to last for over two hours. I highly recommend watching it.