Drama featured

Review: ‘On Chesil Beach’ Shows that Love is a Many-Complicated Thing

May 25, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

An adaptation of "Atonement" author Ian McEwan's 2007 novella of the same name, On Chesil Beach is an emotionally wrenching drama about a young couple's 1962 honeymoon gone frustratingly wrong.

On the surface, you might think that this is a period drama about the awkwardness that ensues for a young couple who have just gotten married, whose polite English upbringings contribute to their failure to consummate their relationship. Saoirse Ronan's Florence is paralyzed with fear and is unable to express her feelings about having sex, while Billy Howle's Edward is just as awkward and is unable to interpret the signs that his new wife may not be ready. In fact, he is unaware that perhaps he isn't ready either.

Similar to the novella, however, the film is a repressed romance. At the center is a couple who love each other, but who are stunted by the old-fashioned nature of the world they are accustomed to. The two leads are remarkable, especially Ronan, whereas Howle, being incredibly charismatic, manages to be equally noteworthy.

This is an impressive feature debut by director Dominic Cooke, who works to provide viewers with a vivid look at a world transitioning from the stuffy customs of the 1950s to the more vibrant, modern era of the 1960s. He expertly captures the disconnect by showcasing this transition through the newlyweds, as they are torn between the conventions of the past and the future, where they are free to step outside of those formalities.

The movie goes back and forth between the present day, the newlyweds in their hotel room, and the events that led up to their eventual marriage. These flashbacks are helpful in understanding what culminated in this awkward moment in their young lives. The first two acts of the film fool you into thinking everything will work out, but the outcome is not what you might expect. The story will take turns that will hurt, as we are ultimately dealing with two deeply repressed people, so the results of their relationship are rather haunting.

Love is an incredibly complicated thing, and what you will do to have it in your life is equally complicated. On Chesil Beach epitomizes this theme perfectly, as Edward and Florence are unique individuals who desire nothing more than good and honest love in their lives. And while, at first glance, it makes no sense for these two people to be together, from their first meeting you know that they are destined for one another.

On Chesil Beach releases May 25th, 2018 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R. Its runtime is 1 hr. 50 min.

You May Also Like