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Manchester By the Sea

Manchester By the Sea Plot

Lee Chandler is a janitor who lives alone in a basement flat in Quincy, Massachusetts, and is sad and asocial. One day, he receives word that his brother Joe, a fisherman from Manchester-by-the-Sea, has died of heart arrest; Joe passes away before Lee can reach the hospital.

Lee is adamant on informing Joe’s teenage son Patrick of his father’s death. While making funeral arrangements, they are reminded that because the ground is frozen, Joe’s body cannot be buried until spring. Lee decides to stay in Manchester and live with Joe until the delayed burial.

When Lee meets with Joe’s lawyer, he is taken aback when he learns that Joe has named him as Patrick’s legal guardian. Lee used to live in Manchester with his then-wife Randi and their three small children, according to flashbacks. Lee neglected to install the guard in front of the fireplace one night while inebriated, resulting in the house fire that killed his children. Because the police deemed it a terrible accident, no criminal charges were filed against him. However, in the station, a guilt-ridden Lee attempted to shoot himself by stealing an officer’s gun. Lee left town when he and his wife divorced. Lee is hesitant to accept the guardianship because it would force him to return to Manchester.

Patrick has began making plans to move to Boston with Lee, although he has strong ties to the Manchester community and opposes the relocation. Lee has agreed to stay until the conclusion of the academic year. Patrick wishes to reunite with his estranged mother, Elise, who still resides in the neighborhood. Lee is opposed to this because she abandoned her family due to her alcoholism, but Patrick resolves to reconnect with her over lunch.

Elise and her fiancé Jeffrey have both devoted to Christianity and sobriety, but Patrick finds himself unable to connect with her during an unpleasant supper with them. When Jeffrey emails him and insists on acting as an intermediary in any future communication between them, he becomes even more disturbed. Patrick believes his uncle is trying to get rid of him because of Lee’s nice statements about Elise’s sobriety, which Lee disputes.

As a result of the strain in their relationship, Lee considers extending his stay in Manchester and spending more time with Patrick. Despite disagreements over Joe’s yacht, Patrick’s women, and their future living arrangements, they re-establish their friendship over time.

Staying in Manchester, however, is still a source of pain for Lee, since he is surrounded by reminders of his past. Lee stumbles into his ex-wife Randi and her newborn son Dylan one day. Randi, who is sobbing, apologizes for her behavior of him during their divorce and invites him to lunch. Lee shrugs off her apologies, believing he is unworthy. Lee is overcome with emotion and forced to leave before he breaks down as she urges they reconnect and begs him not to “just die.”

Lee is depressed and gets drunk at a bar, where he causes a fight with strangers and is knocked out. He wakes up in Joe’s friend George’s living room and sobs uncontrollably. After seeing his uncle’s devastated state and images of his deceased children, Patrick displays deference to him at home. Lee arranges for Patrick to be adopted by George and his wife so that he can stay in Manchester while Lee looks for work in Boston. Lee admits he “can’t beat it” when Patrick asks why he can’t stay in Manchester.

Lee tells Patrick on a walk after Joe’s funeral that he is looking for a place in Boston with an extra room so Patrick may visit whenever he wants. Lee and Patrick go fishing on Joe’s restored boat, which Patrick has inherited, in the closing scene.