Though Manchester will likely be overlooked for Best Picture, this is the category where it may reap its reward. As of now, Affleck has generally been considered the frontrunner, but Denzel Washington has snuck up on him throughout the season for his work in Fences, winning awards that are often used as indicators of the future winner of the top prize, like SAG’s. Though Washington may do amazing work, it is hard to deny that the role of Lee Chandler is the role of a lifetime, and Affleck knocks it out of the park. There has been controversy over alleged sexual assault charges against Affleck, causing many to turn against rewarding him. Whether or not you agree that an artist’s personal behaviour should affect consumption of their art — a fair and important argument — it is hard to deny that Affleck deserves the award based on his performance alone. As I mentioned above, the heart of Manchester lies in what is left unsaid, the words between the lines. Affleck is able to take the pain bursting from his character, and feed it to the audience in every minuscule, understated gesture.
The general consensus is that Manchester by the Sea is a very sad movie. This is an accurate observation — it’s a very, very sad movie. But there are also moments of laughter, of levity, even of hope. Affleck expertly shifts between these different facets of his character, while never letting the audience forget that he carries an immense pain behind his stoic exterior. The supporting cast is marvellous as well, especially Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges, but without Affleck this movie would not have the power that it does. If ever there was a film to see for one performance, it is this once, and for that reason Casey Affleck deserves the award.