It’s no secret by now that critics and audiences alike love “Manchester by the Sea,” giving high praise to Casey Affleck in particular and hailing it as a comeback for Kenneth Lonergan — which must be particularly gratifying considering Matt Damon originally handed him the project as a sort of friendly gesture. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Damon — who actually first heard about the idea for the film from Newton native John Krasinski — considered starring in the film as well as making it his directorial debut, approaching Lonergan to write the script. The pair had worked together years earlier, on Lonergan’s second feature film, “Margaret” (his first, “You Can Count On Me,” received two Oscar nominations in 2000). Filmed in 2005, “Margaret” turned out to be a lengthy legal and financial disaster of sorts for Lonergan, who faced multiple lawsuits as he repeatedly delayed the release date because he wasn’t satisfied with the final cut (it wasn’t released until 2011). After that, “a lot of his friends were, quite frankly, worried about him,” Damon told The New Yorker earlier this year. “He needed money, but he couldn’t write — it was this horrible limbo.” That’s apparently why Damon offered Lonergan the “Manchester by the Sea” writing job in 2011 — to help him out. And, once he saw the first draft a couple years later, he knew Lonergan should be directing it, too. (Damon still wanted the starring role, but was unable to take it because of scheduling conflicts; he stayed on as a producer.) Considering the film’s success thus far, we’re guessing Lonergan is feeling pretty darn thankful for Damon this year.