#ScreenplaySunday: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA by Kenneth Lonergan

So, it’s about time that I finally review this year’s winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and Casey’s Affleck’s Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Manchester by the Sea. Turns out, I am actually performing a scene from this story in my acting studio, I am playing Lee’s ex-wife, Randi, who was played by Michelle Williams in the film. Let me say that this was the first screenplay I read from start to finish in one sitting: the story was riveting and I found myself completely immersed in the story, turning pages as fast as I could to uncover the essence of the story. Below is my review, as always, enjoy, and thanks for reading!!

xo, Catherine


Overlapping Dialogue – This script is filled with scenes of overlapping dialogue. As an actress I appreciate when a screenwriter does this just because it gives the scene a lot of freedom: there is no particular order in which the lines have to come. It took a lot of getting used to I’ll admit, but by the end of this screenplay I feel like I have developed an entirely new skill in reading dialogue, and also writing it, to overlap in such a way.

Flashbacks – For those of you who read my review of Moneyball, you know I can be a harsh critic of flashbacks. However, in this case, I think Lonergan has officially mastered the art of flashbacks. In this story flashbacks are used to describe situations and more importantly people, who are no longer in the present. Some good examples are when we flash back to Patty’s dead parents. Not only do we get a full character description on the parents from these flashbacks, but we also are given a map to understanding why Patty is the way he is. Flashback MASTERY!

Up to speed with 2017 – I really appreciated how this story was able to take place in 2017 and represent it well. The little detail of not only having a cell phone, but using it to google a place to eat, was so realistic and very fitting with the entire feeling of this film. It makes me excited for simple tasks we’ll be putting in movies in 20 years that we couldn’t even dream of doing today.


Time – Alright this one bothered me. Within the first 5 pages of the script we are living life in triple speed. These pages cover weeks or months of Lee working his maintenance job, almost as a montage, which is fine. However, it was the complete opposite of the rest of the movie, since up to page 46 the story takes place in ONE DAY. I think this is an important flaw, specifically because it happens at the beginning of the story and is setting the pace for the rest of the film. In my opinion, showing Lee as a maintenance guy could have been done in one scene as opposed to a montage of them.

My Favourite Scene:

In the studio, I am performing the scene between Lee and Randi, where Randi has already given birth to Dylan, and they are both caught off guard to see each other and are forced into an awkward conversation. I have to say it was a stand out in the film and it’s a stand out in the screenplay as well.

But let me finish. However it — my heart was broken. It‟s still broken. I know your heart is broken too. But I don‟t have to carry…I said things that I should — I should fuckin’ burn in hell for what I said. It was just —

No, no…

I‟m just sorry. I love you. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. I can‟t — And I‟m sorry —

You can say it, but — No, it‟s just –I — I can‟t — I gotta go.

We couldn’t have lunch?

I don‟t think so.

You can‟t just die…! But honey, I see you walkin‟ around like this and I just wanna tell you — But Lee, you gotta — I don‟t know what! I don‟t wanna torture you. I just wanna tell you I was wrong. That can‟t be true…!

Thank you for sayin’ everything –I‟m not! But I can‟t — I‟m happy for you. And I want…I would want to talk to you — But I can‟t, I can‟t… I‟m tryin’ to — You‟re not. But I got nothin’ to — Than you for sayin’ that. But — There‟s nothin’ left. There‟s nothin’ there: You don‟t understand…

Of course I do!

I’m s — gotta go.

OK. I‟m sorry.

There’s nothin’ I can s — I gotta go.


Overall, it’s like what everyone told me, I’m sad I didn’t read this screenplay sooner! I am so happy that it won best screenplay as it was one of the best screenplays I’ve read to date. It’s a story about real life, real problems, and real people. As much as I love the fantasy that film can bring us, I can also really appreciate realism in film when it’s done correctly.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s #ScreenplaySunday! Please feel free to suggest my next review, and thanks again for reading!


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