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A Boston area property manager (Casey Affleck) is forced to confront the triggering memories of his past mistakes and return to his coastal hometown following the death of his older brother (Kyle Chandler, glimpsed in flashbacks) and the unexpected legal guardianship of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges).

The gut wrenching and emotionally powerful Manchester by the Sea marks the big screen return of writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, one of the finest dramatists in the world today. Subtly building his time shifting tale of grief, loss, and suppressed sadness around a single question and confrontation that needs to be had between a still maturing teen and his world weary uncle, Lonergan’s work here feels as cathartic for the audience as it does for the characters.

While Lonergan does exceptional work behind the camera (expertly conveying a snowy, icy suburbia that mimics the emotions of many characters within the town), his material also propels Affleck to an Oscar worthy leading performance. Similarly great in support are Hedges and Michelle Williams, as Affleck’s equally tortured, but lovingly empathetic ex-wife. Lonergan gives his cast plenty of quiet moments that build to almost symphonic bursts of emotion and tragedy, and the performers are more than up to the challenge of the material.