The big draw for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea (A) is a triumphant and buzzed-about performance by Casey Affleck, but the film is such a brilliantly realized and sustained study of grief that it should be hailed as a superb film overall buoyed by this superior lead. Let’s get to that performance first: The less-known Affleck is note-perfect fully inhabiting an indelible character, a man of few words but remarkable expression. As a loner with anger management issues, he captivates for the duration of the film. This is easily a Marlon Brando On the Waterfront or Streetcar Named Desire level role in the strong and silent type with swirls of rage mold. The film is a modern return-to-hometown tale with mysterious flashbacks that deepen character and traces the stories of fathers who overcome their demons to be strong figures for their families. Lonergan lovingly photographs an austere New England environment in which his drama unfolds. He finely observes his characters, including Michelle Williams and Gretchen Mol as frustrated mothers, Kyle Chandler in a noble portrait of brotherhood and Lucas Hedges in a natural performance as a teenager. It’s a great companion piece with another 2016 film about unlikely dads, Captain Fantastic. For wonderful acting and a moving story, Manchester is a master class.