In 1960’s Britain, Florence and Edward, two gauche adolescents from different social strata, meet at college and fall in love. However as their wedding night approaches, the cracks in their respective backgrounds threaten to pull them apart.
'...is an awkward film that (like its leads) isn’t sure where to put itself.'
Adapted from Ian McEwan’s novel, ‘On Chesil Beach’ is an awkward film (that like its leads) isn’t sure where to put itself. Centring on the expectations of society fused with the pressures of first time sex, this is a chamber-piece drama that feels both stage-like and lost on the big canvas of a cinema screen.
Whilst this is is not the fault of Saoirse Ronan as Florence or Billy Howle as Edward, the film’s direction and pacing feels stilted, jumping back and forth between the past and the present. Unlike McEwan’s ‘Atonement’, which covers a similar incident of English embarrassment, ‘On Chesil Beach’ has none of ‘Atonement’s’ production values or directorial ambition as brought by director Joe Wright.
What does exceed both the expectations and confines of this plot is the performance of Anne-Marie Duff as Billy’s affected mother. Lost in her own world, it’s an acting turn which both showcases this amazing actress’s range and the fragility of the movie that contains it.
In the end ‘On Chesil Beach’s’ resolution goes a long way to forgive its fitful, pedantic beginnings but for an exemplary McEwan adaptation, ‘Atonement’s’ tragically-doomed love triangle is still the film to see.