Manchester By The Sea garnered a lot of critical acclaim upon release in 2016, including two Academy Awards: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. There’s a lot we can learn from the Manchester By The Sea script, from its characters to its dialogue. We’re going to break down the Manchester By The Sea screenplay so that you can see how Kenneth Lonergan uniquely writes his scripts. But first, download a copy of the Manchester By the Sea movie script PDF and follow along as we review the story summary.

Watch: Anatomy of a Screenplay — Ultimate Guide

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

Manchester By The Sea Script Download

Click to view and download the entire Manchester By The Sea script PDF below.

Click above to read and download the entire Manchester By The Sea script PDF

Kenneth Lonergan - Headshot

WHO WROTE manchester by the sea SCRIPT?

Written by Kenneth Lonergan

Kenneth Lonergan is a writer and director who is renowned for his work in the film industry and on the stage. In 2017, Lonergan won his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester By The Sea. In prior years, Lonergan was celebrated for his work on films like You Can Count on Me and Margaret, as well as plays like The Waverly Gallery and Lobby Hero.



Here is the plot of the Manchester By the Sea Movie:


Lee Chandler is a 40-year-old man who works in Boston, Massachusetts as a plumber/handyman. He’s averse to social interaction and has a very bad temper.

Inciting Incident

Lee receives a call from the hospital, telling him that his brother, Joe, has died from a heart attack. He picks up Joe’s son, Patrick, and tells him that his father is dead. The two go back to the hospital to see his dead body —both are incredibly heartbroken.

Plot Point One

Patrick finds support in his friends at school — as well as his two girlfriends, Sylvie and Sandy. Lee wanders Manchester alone, trying to get Joe’s funeral in order. In Joe’s will and testimony, it’s revealed that Lee has been named Patrick’s legal guardian.

Rising Action

It’s clear that Lee has no interest in being Patrick’s guardian. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Lee was once a father himself. But one evening, Lee left the fireplace in his house open while he went out to get more beer. While he was gone, the house burned down and all three of his children were killed.


Patrick seems to be handling his father’s death well. He grows closer to his “main” girlfriend Sandy, and partakes in activities with his friends. However, one night, Patrick has a panic attack, and Lee doesn’t know what to do. The two sit in silence together as they deal with their grief.

Plot Point Two

Lee’s ex-wife Randi makes contact and tells him that she’s pregnant with her new husband. Lee feigns support but is actually heartbroken. He attempts to find work in Manchester but nobody wants to hire him.

Build Up

Patrick meets with his mother, who had previously lost custody for being an alcoholic. The meeting doesn’t go well and her new husband tells him that he shouldn’t reach out to her anymore.


Lee runs into Randi in a parking lot where, during an emotional conversation, she tells Lee that she still loves him. Overcome with emotion, Lee leaves and accepts a job in Boston.


Lee tells Patrick that he’s moving back to Boston to work as a handyman. George agrees to adopt Patrick which will allow him to stay in Manchester.


In spring, Joe’s body is finally buried. Lee tells Patrick that he’s looking for a new apartment should he ever want to stay with him. The two go out on the boat for an afternoon on the water, and share a smile.

Manchester By The Sea Plot and Characters

Develop characters with flashbacks

The Manchester By The Sea script makes great use of flashbacks. By bringing us into the past, Lonergan juxtaposes the present — but he also gives context and reason to it. Throughout the first act of Manchester By The Sea, we clearly see that Lee is traumatized by something. He holds it together the best he can, but has bursts of rage like when he gets into a fight at the bar.

Through the incremental use of flashbacks, Lonergan shows us why Lee has become the way he is. Perhaps the most famous scene from Manchester By The Sea — the one in which Lee attempts suicide in the police station — is also its darkest.

We imported the Manchester By The Sea script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to take a closer look at all the aspects of the scene. Click below to read the scene in its entirety and pay special attention to the dialogue and actions.

Manchester By The Sea Script  •  Read the Police Station Scene

What do we make of Lee in this scene? To me, the first word that comes to mind is honest. What kind of drugs was he using? Alcohol and cocaine. Why’d he leave in the middle of the night? To get more beer because he couldn’t sleep. Why’d he start a fire? Because Randi’s sinuses get irritated from the central heat.

There are no lies in his story, just the unbearable guilt of responsibility. As the fire marshall says, “Look, Lee: You made a horrible mistake. Like a million other people did last night. But we don’t wanna crucify you. It’s not a crime to leave the screen off the fireplace.”

It’s a crushing statement, the sort that searingly cuts into the soul. So what does Lee do? Let’s review the scene actions:

Lee comes out of a room opposite, followed by the Detective and Fire Marshall. He makes his way past the desks. Suddenly he GRABS a YOUNG COP from behind, pulls the GUN out of his holster and shoves him away. SHOUTS and GUNS come out everywhere. LEE puts the GUN to his own HEAD and pulls the trigger, but the SAFETY CATCH is ON. JOE is across the room in a bound.

Remember, it’s okay to emphasize character actions and props with BOLD lettering. And don’t forget to use ALL CAPS when introducing new characters.

It’s really helpful to see a scene like this come to life. Now that we’ve analyzed the scene in the script, let’s take a look at how it came together in the final cut:

Manchester By The Sea    Police Station Clip

Lonergan does a tremendous job as a director with this scene. Just think about the way he frames his shots. When Lee begins to tell his story, the camera PUSHES towards him. This results in a suffocating feeling where we gain a greater understanding of his guilt. Of course it helps to have an actor like Casey Affleck delivering the lines, but Lonergan does a great job of bringing the camera to him.

Manchester By The Sea Dialogue

The art of layered dialogue

One great thing about screenwriting is that there’s a near endless amount of approaches a writer can take to make scripts their own. Some writers prefer to focus on their scene descriptions — think world-building first. Some writers are “actions-focused” — think blockbuster films and adventure movies.

Others are drawn to dialogue — think Noah Baumbach, and Kenneth Lonergan. And within the discipline of dialogue writing, there are tons of different approaches writers use. Baumbach and Lonergan happen to layer theirs with overlapping conversation.

Let’s check out the scene from Manchester By The Sea in which Patrick has a panic attack to see how Lonergan weaves dialogue together. You’ll notice that Lonergan paces the scene by stacking dialogue on top of itself in moments of fervor, and by giving it more room to breath in moments of contemplation.

Manchester By The Sea  Dialogue  •  Read Patrick's Breakdown

Notice anything different about the dialogue in this scene? Well, two characters are written to be speaking at once. This overlapping dialogue creates pace, chaos, and most importantly, realism. Cinema conditions us into thinking that only one person speaks at a time, even in scenes with background chatter. But just think about any conversation you have in real life — we’re constantly cutting each other off, especially in group settings.

It’s worth noting that this overlapping dialogue is really hard to pull off, and it’s near impossible if the writer isn’t also the director or on set. Fortunately, Lonergan was the director of the Manchester By The Sea.

Getting the pacing right is probably the hardest part of using overlapping dialogue. Let’s see how Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges masterfully work against each other to make it tense and believable.

Manchester By The Sea  •  Patrick’s Panic Attack

In the end, this scene of panic ends in silence. Lee sits across from a sleeping Patrick just to make sure he’s okay. It’s a very humanizing moment for Lee, and it makes us sympathize with him to a greater degree. The Manchester By the Sea dialogue shows us that there’s a variety of different ways to tackle conversation in screenwriting.

Manchester By The Sea Ending

Finish where you started

Don’t be afraid to make your story a circle. We’ve seen thousands of books, films, albums, and video games bring their ending all the way back to the beginning. There’s a reason writers do this — few things are as satisfying as a narrative arc that connects the first and last scene.

Manchester By The Sea does a great job of giving context to the beginning with its ending. In the process, it also finds a lot of resolution. Let’s mix it up a little and take a look at the opening scene first:

Manchester By The Sea    Opening Scene

We don’t see Lee up close in this scene at all. But even from a distance, we can tell that he’s happy. He’s jovial, playing with Patrick and fishing out in the open water. But we learn early on that this was a flashback, this was a Lee who doesn’t exist anymore.

Lee is weighed down by grief throughout Manchester By The Sea. One could argue that the inescapability of grief is perhaps the central theme of the film. Lee even says to Patrick, “I can’t beat it” but it’s clear that he’s trying to.

The Manchester By The Sea ending takes Lee and Patrick back onto the water. By this point, nothing has been resolved; it’s not like Lee’s grief has disappeared. But there’s a faint glow in him that makes us think that he’s going to be okay.

Let’s take a look at the Manchester By The Sea ending scene. Here, Lonergan is more poetic than usual in his actions, and he makes a point to tell the reader that Lee is getting better.

Manchester By The Sea Script  •  Read Ending

In a very short amount of time, Lonergan gives us a lot of resolution. It’s not that the characters find closure, but rather that the loose ends are tied up — and for the first time since the opening scene, “Lee looks a little better than we’ve seen him.”


Read and download more scripts

Manchester By the Sea is a great script to study if you’re hoping to learn more about screenwriting. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like Uncut Gems, Gone Girl, and Uncut Gems in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs of all our scripts as you read, write, and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

Up Next: Explore more scripts →
Solution Icon - Screenplay and Documents

Write and produce your scripts all in one place.

Write and collaborate on your scripts FREE. Create script breakdowns, sides, schedules, storyboards, call sheets and more.

Copy link