On Chesil Beach - This Sexually Frustrated Movie Gets Its Rocks Off
Dir: Dominic Cooke
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Anne Mrie Duff, Emily Mortimer, Samuel West
On Chesil Beach is, for the most part, a sweet film. Adapted by Ian McEwan from his wildly successful novel, it’s a slight tale that may have worked well as a literary conceit, but on film also manages to find its groove. Essentially set on the wedding night of a young couple in 1962, Florence and Edward, as they move inexorably to the bedroom and what is for both of them their first sexual encounter, events are delayed by flashbacks, some requested, other just popping into their heads, all of which delay the inevitable.
Superbly played by both Ronan, and especially Howle, who veers convincingly between besotted love and petulant immature child, this part of the movie moves from charming and funny, to worrying and upsetting, with just a hint of unexpected tragedy. Director Cooke finds a good balance between all these elements and visually uses the vast expanse of the empty pebbled beach to suggest his protagonist’s feelings of being both lost and isolated, stranded even.
The film then makes two leaps into 1975 and 2007 respectively to draw to its protracted conclusion. These sections are less successful but the expected – and even required – tearful ending is rightly in place when needed.
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