Casey Affleck for Oscar?
His performance in Manchester by the Sea deserves recognition
Casey Affleck won a Golden Globe for his lead role in Manchester by the Sea. The trophy significantly raises his odds for receiving an Oscar nomination—along with the film’s near universal acclaim from film critics and its respectable box office.
With Manchester by the Sea, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has fashioned a character study in disappointment, loss and muddling through. Affleck fully inhabits his aimless protagonist, Lee, an inarticulate man who could have figured in an ‘80s Springsteen song. Toiling as an apartment building janitor in Boston (Casey’s accent is far superior to brother Ben’s in Live by Night), Lee shovels snow, fixes drains, calks tubs and shrugs his way through work unless a tenant gets needlessly nasty. Then he’ll fire back. He drinks alone in bars, grows paranoid, can’t respond to conversation but can start a fight.
One day a phone call interrupts the monotony of his life. His brother had a heart attack. Lee arrives back home in the small town of Manchester but too late by half an hour. His brother is dead. Lee begins to sort through the debris of a life just ended and examine the ruins of his own past.
Affleck’s role demands no charisma, no grand professions of passion or heroism—and yet must have gravity and sympathy. Lee is a tragic figure, we learn through flashbacks that fill a significant amount of screen-time, and a numb callous covers his pain. Affleck deserves a nod from the Academy’s nominating committee. It will be interesting to see who will be his competitors for Best Actor.