Kenneth Lonergan returns to film directing with a touching, identifiable and deeply human story.
Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan's third film as director and sixth as writer, premiered Monday night at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles. Stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges joined other members of the cast at the screening, along with special guests including Peter Fonda.
"I think a part of what makes a movie like this feel universal is the attention to detail," Affleck told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "Had Kenny written it in such detail about Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the actors really came in and tried to figure out how people live and sounded, it wouldn't have made much of a difference."
Read more: ‘Manchester by the Sea’: Sundance Review
The film tells the story of Boston janitor Lee Chandler (Affleck), who is suddenly thrust into a fatherly role when his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies of heart disease, forcing him to care for his teenage nephew Patrick (Hedges). Lee and Patrick have difficulty connecting in some situations, partly due to Lee's troubled past.
"My favorite part about being Patrick was that he breaks down at one point. He goes from being a really charismatic, funny, cool guy to being a real person to being well-rounded," said Hedges. "In that moment I understand him and I love him because I see underneath all of it, he just wants to be loved."
Hedges is most notably known for his recent roles as Redford in Moonrise Kingdom and Ian Webb in Kill the Messenger.
Prior to entering the theater, Lonergan stopped to talk with THR about the process of directing. "Getting your hands into it means leaving everyone alone at times to do their work," he said. "Especially with the actors, they have a lot more to offer than you think. I maybe say a word or two, and then stay out of their way."
Manchester by the Sea has already been nominated for numerous awards and was produced by Matt Damon, who was originally going to direct and star in the film. Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions will release the film Friday.