On Chesil Beach
8th October 2017 5.30pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
10th October 2017 2.30pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
15th October 2017 3.30pm at Curzon Mayfair
England, 1962, just before the revolution of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. This is the setting for On Chesil Beach, a new adaptation by Dominic Cooke of an Ian McEwan novel. Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) have just married and travel to a hotel on Chesil Beach for their honeymoon. But both of them have trouble making the first moves to consummate the marriage.
On Chesil Beach has a fractured narrative jumping back-and-forth between past, present and future. It’s not too much of a surprise that the film plays out more like a novel, considering the screenplay was penned by McEwan himself. But it unfolds beautifully, reminding one of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s work on Hiroshima mon amour. However, the connections between the different timelines – heard laughter, a feel of the hand etc. – feel too loose and arbitrary for the big screen, and more suited to a book.
But the novelistic style doesn’t impede on the work’s cinematic majesty – remarkable for a British film. Many scenes feel directly out of Ingmar Bergman, particularly the times by the sea – which share the same level of desolation as Bergman’s island of Faro. Supporting this is Sean Bobbitt’s bare and beautiful cinematography, which immerses the viewer into tormented characters amid surreal surroundings. And even though the movie hinges on the dialogue between Edward and Florence, Bobbitt provides enough visual prowess to eradicate any suggestion of filmed theatre.
The show is undoubtedly Ronan’s, despite Howle having the most screentime. She gives such a generous and tortured performance, of a charcater conflicted in the time she is living. She creates such a strong presence that it’s difficult not to think about her when she’s off screen.
On Chesil Beach is an emotionally fragmented romance, placing beautiful memories in harsh retrospect. It forces one to question whether a relationship can be truly fulfilling without sex. If a couple love each other truly, why should the bedroom matter?
On Chesil Beach is released nationwide on 19th January 2018.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.