Rated: R for strong sex references. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 18, 2018 Released by: Lions Gate Films
A U.K. period drama mostly set during the pre-Beatles invasion has theater director Dominic Cooke teaming up with scribe Ian McEwan, adapting his own novel. A restrained, respectful On Chesil Beach went through obstacles to get made and an operose, atonal outcome mostly prevails.
Yet, some discerning cineastes will hone into the angst of a honeymooning couple at a coastal inn pertaining to societal pressure. Even if Cooke and McEwan modulate it as comfortably as marital partners attempt to find solace in the bedroom and on the water's edge.
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) is Florence from an upstanding background and Billy Howle (Dunkirk) is working-class Edward whose mother has neurological trouble after a freak train mishap. Their meeting at Oxford has a love-at-first-sight aura about and a courtship is looked at periodically with pretension developing alongside exchange of teasing remarks.
An elegant, fussy production is draped over a certain moral relativity that would be more natural in the coming years wherein the young adults are either more or less circumspect of their situation. How it unfolds yields risibility at times, though a raw candor finally emerges in wrenching fashion with old age heavy tenderness setting in.
A McEwan novel with a wartime backdrop (Atonement) had Ronan making a name for herself alongside Keira Knightley and James McEvoy as a young teenager in what was an enveloping mystery/thriller under Joe Wright's helming. Here she appropriates shading into a confinement that appears to coincide with an overall affectedness. Behind closed doors, notably, there is a palpable touch into where emotional and sexual bonds can end up. As expectations feed into an irreparable state, maybe not unlike how marital discord was related in Sam Mendes's Revolutionary Road.
Characters like Edward meet the demands of what McEwan and Cooke place on them for the most part, as Howle does well to relate the conflict of making this kind of commitment. Emily Watson (The Book Thief, War Horse) and Annie-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy) lend favorable backup on the parental side of the spouses. The way On Chesil Beach is presented the pursuit of poignancy is undone in those unfortunate predestined complications.
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