Lucas Hedges received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Patrick Chandler in Manchester By The Sea.
The focus of the film isn't really dealing with the death of Joe, that again is just a starting point. In fact the major moment on that end is still early on and very brief as Lee takes Patrick to see his father's body at the morgue. The scene is only a few seconds long, but I find to be one of the stronger moments in the film. Patrick just walks in then walks immediately upon seeing his father, and Hedges is quite moving in again realizing the hidden sadness as he's too pained to look for long. After this point, until one pivotal moment later, we see Lee going through the motions of making funeral arrangement but the death still is not given that much focus even in regards to Patrick. The film instead shows Patrick's life is still going forward in a pretty normal way. Although as we learn more of about Patrick's normal life we kind of discover that he is a bit of a, well for the lack of a better word, *ahem* a douche. Patrick, as written, is a fairly self-absorbed teen and for some reason a major aspect of the film is Patrick attempting to have sex with his girlfriend, except it's his second girlfriend that he keeps a secret from his first girlfriend. That is Patrick at his worst, and I will admit that aspect of the film I hardly found to be the most engaging.
I ponder if we are suppose to like Patrick in these scenes, they are shown without a critical eye, and it does seems set up to be some sort enjoyable teenage hijinks. It is a challenge then to make Patrick still engaging in these scenes, and it is a challenge that Hedges does not meet. I still question their need within the story, I think if you trimmed all those scenes it would only help the film. Past that though we are mostly given Patrick in fairly low key scenes of just being a teenager, and Hedges is a believable teenager. That doesn't sound like an achievement but it is. He brings the naturalism needed, even when he's being kind of obnoxious Hedges still makes it a believable obnoxiousness. He's also good in his scenes with Affleck, which are interesting in the way their essentially buttressed by flashbacks, with a much younger Patrick, where we see the warmer relationship between two. Those scenes though feel somewhere in the distance, yet still alive, in the detached but not cold interactions between the two of them. Hedges has that ease of interaction as though he still looks up to the guy, even if he no longer reciprocates in quite the same way. There is another subplot regarding Patrick's alcoholic mother that is briefly touched upon. I mention it though because it contains one of Hedges's best scenes as he manages to realize the tension of the scene through just the slight unease of his manner, while portraying the effort to attempt to reconnect in some way through his earnest delivery. This performance works best when it's at its most unassuming but unfortunately there is one major scene, basically his "Oscar scene", where Patrick finally breaks down over his father due to him needing to be kept in refrigeration before he can be buried. There is only one way I can say, that is I just didn't believe it, he goes for it, but all of it felt like a put on. The scene falls flat and I actually find it is the weakest scene of his performance. Hedges's performance works best when he doesn't seem to be "trying", and instead simply gives an honest depiction of a teen just trying to get by.