“The thing that really moved me about this movie,” attests Michelle Williams concerning her latest film Manchester by the Sea, “is that I think it is about human bravery and the choice people make on how to stay alive after a tragedy.”
Whereas most individuals struggle just to survive adversity, Williams embodies the complicated fight to live on after one. In Manchester by the Sea, she plays Randi Chandler, a woman who reconnects with her ex-husband Lee (Casey Affleck) years after a horrific occurrence that shatters the lives of their family. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, the story is unwavering in its depiction of grief and its aftermath; yet painted with such compelling intimate strokes of raw candor and emotion, that there is this unwavering optimism that rises to the surface.
Rising is what Williams has been doing in the business ever since she was a young girl; first with guest appearances on such TV shows as Home Improvement and Baywatch before making her feature film debut in Lassie. Four years later, her career shifted into high gear when she was cast in the part of bad girl Jen Lindley in the television series Dawson’s Creek and at the tender age of 17, became a voice to a new generation of television viewers.
The Kalispell, Montana native segued back to features after the series, but this time, she was quite specific in choosing to go the independent route; inhabiting complicated characters far from her perceived TV persona. She scored in such films as Me Without You, Prozac Nation, The United States of Leland and the Wim Wenders directed Land of Plenty, a role that secured her a Best Actress Nomination with the Independent Spirit Awards.
In 2005, her role as Alma in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain garnered Williams her first of three Academy Award nominations, this time for Best Supporting Actress. Not only was her talent on display but also her fashion style as her saffron Vera Wang gown was cited by Cosmopolitan Magazine as one of the best Oscar dresses of all time.
The Academy Awards soon called her name again with nominations for Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn; however determined to keep spreading her artistic wings, Williams headed to Broadway next where she appeared in the hit musical Cabaret as the iconic Sally Bowles and more recently alongside Liev Schreiber in the critically acclaimed play Blackbird, receiving her first Tony nomination.
Manchester by the Sea has provided Williams with her second Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film. Looking back on her remarkable career, the 36 year-old actress acknowledges how gratified she is at where she now artistically stands.
“I found this picture recently, this picture of me at 14 or 15 at a school dance and I am just so awkward and uncomfortable looking,” she recently revealed to the HFPA. “I put it in my wallet because I just thought more than anything I'm just really proud of having come a long way. I feel so embracing of where I started. I've grown up a lot and I'm still me. I'm still like the same person. I still have the same values and dreams but there is no denying how far I've come and it wasn't easy at all. I feel kind of pleased about that.”