On Chesil Beach
The four-time Olivier award-winning director Dominic Cooke makes his feature film directorial debut in this delicate adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novella On Chesil Beach. Saoirse Ronan plays the timid Florence, born into strict principles that are on the cusp of extinction, while Billy Howle is the marginally more free-spirited Edward, the plimsoll-sporting graduate, with an interest in Chuck Berry, ready to embrace a new world.
Married earlier that day, on a grey afternoon in 1962, Florence and Edward are introduced to us as they begin their honeymoon at a startlingly depressing hotel on the coast. It is here, and on the beach, that the frustrations of their relationship are laid out for the audience to pore over. A series of flashbacks detail the dissimilarities between the couple, as well as the roots of a deep affection for one another. This is an adaptation that attempts to stick true to the author’s intention, and is a calmly portrayed picture of two individuals finding their feet in a fading orthodoxy that will soon give way to a new age of personal freedom.
The essence of the book is captured beautifully by Cooke and his cinematography team in the beach scenes, where the troubled couple are ostensibly alone in a harsh reality. Timeline is key to the film, the management of which is one of a select few disappointments. Several scenes offer an insufficient glimpse into the future of our besotted protagonists, leaving the viewer somewhat unfulfilled as that future is rushed through.
The soundtrack perfectly mimics the stories of our leads, with rebellious rock‘n’roll battling against plaintive chamber music. A strong directorial debut from Cooke and consummate performances from Ronan and Howle deliver a restrained yet touching adaptation of McEwan’s work, which picks apart the dizzying highs, lonely lows and the cruel what-ifs of an unfulfilled love.
On Chesil Beach is released nationwide on 18th May 2018.
Watch the trailer for On Chesil Beach here: