Film Review: On Chesil Beach

Saoirse Ronan continues to shine in adaptation Ian McEwan novel about young newlyweds on their wedding day

How awkward can first love be on a wedding day?

Ian McEwan’s screen adaptation of his own novel On Chesil Beach, shows it can be plenty awkward when newlyweds Florence Ponting, played by Saoirse Ronan and Edward Mayhew, played by Billy Howle, settle into a dapper hotel to consummate a relationship neither truly understands.

It’s England in 1962 and humble history student Edward Mayhew has fallen in love with talented young musician Florence Ponting, whose family brandishes a more affluent lifestyle than his own.

The obvious social and relationship challenges seeping from the mores of class and upbringing aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. However Forence’s parents, played beautifully by Samuel West and Emily Watson, provide the dissonance without feeling trite.

First-time film director Dominic Cooke’s deft storytelling crafts the foundation of their budding relationship through flashbacks, each scene a subtle brick layered quietly as their relationship grows. Until you begin to realize the world he’s built around Edward and Florence, has trapped them both.

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Atonement) is well, Saoirse Ronan. The words ‘up-and-coming’ no longer apply and the Irish-American actor has not only arrived, she’s long left many behind as one of the best young actors on the screen. To say she steals scenes as the newlywed’s relationship unfurls is a disservice. She is the scene, every one of them and that’s no disrespect to Howle (Dunkirk), whose performance holds it’s own walking a fine dramatic line without being overly earnest.

McEwan’s (Atonement, The Good Son) screenplay reads quietly, the writing favouring muted hues, over the intensity of bold primary colours. While some may cry sacrilege for watching the film before reading the novel or say the book has a lot to live up to before reading it, but I say that anyway.

On Chesil Beach begins with a conversation between two newlyweds strolling along a beautiful rocky shoreline. “This is the emotional punch,” Edward Mayhew says to Florence only moments in.

He may as well have been talking about the film.

4/5

Elevation Pictures releases On Chesil Beach June 1.

arnold.lim@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Vancouver Island dance classes billed as female empowerment tool

New Comox Valley business focuses on ‘promoting positive body image’

Duncan’s Big Stick lights up red to signal COVID’s devastation of the arts

“COVID-19 has been truly devastating to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre”

Chorus expands online options to in-person rehearsal in Langford, Oak Bay

Free, non-auditioned SingYourJoy recruits those aged 16 to 29

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bucket list: Mid-Island set to come alive with special drumming

Pair of programs scheduled to take place starting October

Cowichan Performing Arts Centre streaming new short film tonight

Standing By has been created and performed by Cowichan-raised actor Nicole Ratjen.

Voting now ready for Oak Bay’s Arts Alive 2020 sculptures

Audio and written descriptions posted for all 10 sculptures

Snuneymuxw artist brings aquatic designs to Nanaimo’s Beban Park pool

Work by artist Eliot White-Hill is being installed at the pool this month

Nanaimo musician plays all instruments on DIY debut album

Jamie Penner releasing guitar-centric instrumental record ‘Out of Curiosity’

Hospice worker and patient butt heads in upcoming Nanaimo theatre production

Yellow Point Drama Group presents ‘Grace and Glorie’ at Cedar Community Hall

Most Read