On Chesil Beach: Film Review

I am a huge Saoirse Ronan fan so I will check her out in anything, but On Chesil Beach was also appealing to me because I like adaptations of Ian McEwan novels like Atonement and Enduring Love. This certainly isn’t as emotionally gruelling as Atonement, but the leads put in tremendous performances.

In the present storyline, set in 1962, Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) have just got married and have arrived at a hotel by Chesil Beach for their honeymoon. The evening is tense and awkward, with Edward ready to consummate their marriage and Florence being unsure/scared of sexual intimacy. What goes down will have devastating consequences for their relationship.

The film is based on a novella by McEwan and you can tell that it has been deliberately bulked out by loads of flashbacks showing how the couple met, what their background and families are like. For example, Edward’s mum Marjorie (Anne-Marie Duff) suffers from brain damage, while Florence’s mum Violet (Emily Watson) isn’t sold on Edward. These basically drip feed context to us and make us understand how that fateful evening turned out the way it did. However, I did find some of them rather jarring where they were placed and they interfered with the flow of the piece at times.

This is very much a period piece and I don’t know if younger viewers will be able to relate to it completely, because the issue of sex is handled so differently nowadays. Most couples would have had sex way before their wedding night. It’s hard to appreciate what a big deal it was at that time.

However, Ronan and Howle do a terrific job conveying these emotions. I cannot overstate how excellent they are. Ronan is reliable always, her multiple Oscar nominations are a testament to that, and she plays Florence as someone torn between loving her husband but being unable to give him what he wants/needs. I didn’t know much about Howle but he will certainly be on my radar from now on because he blew me away – more so than Ronan, and that’s saying something! Her character is more reserved and repressed, whereas he is obviously emotional and therefore has more opportunity to show off his talent. He moved me and I may have had tears in my eyes during the time jumps forward.

On Chesil Beach is quite slow and probably suited more towards an older audience. It is beautifully shot, although awkwardly edited at times, and the flashbacks are a joy to watch – their romance blossoming – while the present day story is pretty uncomfortable. It’s not serious 100% as they have thrown some welcome jokes in to ease the tension and add some levity to the tense atmosphere.

It isn’t flawless, but it still a joy to watch and incredibly moving. I would definitely recommend it for the terrific performances alone.

In cinemas Friday 18th May

Comments

  1. Awesome review !

Trackbacks

  1. […] On Chesil Beach is released in selected cinemas on Friday 18th May. You can read my review here. […]

  2. […] can read my read of On Chesil Beach here. The film is in selected cinemas […]

  3. […] by Howle’s American accent, which seemed to come and go all over the place. I liked him in On Chesil Beach but here he was overdoing things and his accent needed work to sound more […]

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