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Kenneth Lonergan is a master of writing real people, resplenden­t in their absurdity, staggering in their endurance of grief, clumsy in their nature. The most devastatin­g losses in one’s life can be followed by a hospital gurney folding awkwardly; grief may be triggered by frozen dinners cascading out of a freezer. It’s these huge and small moments, the organic blend of tragedy and humour that make Manchester By The Sea so constantly funny and ultimately devastatin­g. Casey Affleck stars as Lee, a taciturn janitor who returns to his hometown after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler).

Lee has been appointed guardian of his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), but Lee’s horror at the prospect indicates a past trauma – which, when revealed, is almost unbearably heartbreak­ing. The emergence of allegation­s of sexual harassment against Affleck may understand­ably affect some viewers’ enjoyment, but the supporting cast – including a masterful Michelle Williams – do offer rewards aplenty. And with graceful flashbacks, wonderfull­y real cinematogr­aphy and a powerful score, Lonergan’s tale of small life is a masterpiec­e.

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