DI: 'Manchester by the Sea'
Issue: March 1, 2016

DI: 'Manchester by the Sea'

NEW YORK — Technicolor PostWorks (www.technicolorpwny.com) recently provided editorial finishing and final color grading for Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s new drama, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Colorist Jack Lewars worked directly with Lonergan in finalizing the look of the film, which tells the story of a man who is forced to take care of his nephew after the boy’s father dies. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams star in the emotionally wrenching tale set on the north shore of Massachusetts.

Manchester by the Sea drew critical praise and generated considerable buzz at Sundance. Amazon picked up North American rights and plans to release the film in theaters in the fall. International rights were acquired by Universal and Sony Pictures.

Manchester by the Sea was Lewars’ second project with Lonergan. He also applied the final grade to the writer/director’s 2011 film Margaret. 

“We spent a lot of time on Margaret and we also spent a lot of time on Manchester,” Lewars recalls. “Kenneth likes to set looks and explore options. It works out beautifully in the end. He’s fantastic to work with.”

The film’s final grade goes counter to convention. While the story is heavy with emotion, the look is realistic and applied with a light touch. 

“The movie is very sad, but Kenneth didn’t want the drama to be in the cinematography or the color, he wanted the story to speak for itself,” Lewars explains. “There are scenes set in a hospital that are very distressing, but we kept them bright. He didn’t want the characters to be able to hide from their emotions. The bright light and bright environments bring the emotions to the foreground. The sadness comes through.”

Time is also ambiguous. Lewars notes that there are a lot of flashback scenes in the film, but their sequence and interconnectedness are indistinct. 

“Often you’ll give flashbacks a different look, but we kept it realistic,” Lewars says. “There’s a lot of playing with time in the first two reels of the film and we didn’t change the grading based on past or present. The audience is kept guessing and doesn’t really know the order of events until well into the film.”

The story’s dramatic scenes are punctuated by sweeping landscape imagery that captures the rugged beauty of the small coastal community that gives the film its name. Lewars notes that these brief interludes serve both a narrative and an aesthetic purpose. 

“There are beauty shots of every set up; we see the city of Manchester constantly,” he says. “Most of the story takes place in winter, but we come back to the spring in the end. Classical music plays over these long, languid beauty shots. And they serve a very important purpose. They give the audience time to take a break from what they are learning about the characters.”

In advance of the film’s general release, additional grading sessions are planned to further refine the look. 

“The film beautifully captures Manchester and the life there,” Lewars observes. “The color helps Kenneth accomplish that.”