On Chesil Beach stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as a recently married couple who are having trouble with the physical aspect of their relationship.
The film is based on a novella of the same name from celebrated writer Ian McEwan and follows two young people who are deeply in love. Unfortunately, there is a potentially fatal issue buried deep within them both that could tear them away from each other.
On Chesil Beach follows Florence Ponting (Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Howle) as they spend their first day as husband and wife. After an awkward encounter with the waiting staff, they begin to move to the marital bed ready to consummate their marriage. There is much anticipation but as the moment draws ever closer something seems wrong and through a multitude of time jumps between the past and the present the audience begin to understand what the issue may be.
Saoirse Ronan is a hell of an actor, from Brooklyn to the recent critically acclaimed Lady Bird she is a fantastic talent and brings that wonderful spirit to this role. The film is set in the early 50’s and with her talent, she fits perfectly into the era giving off the right kind of subdued personality that you’d expect from someone from that place in time. Florence is a warm human being with a wise soul and she’s not afraid to put others ahead of her and this is maybe to her detriment. Lesser known Billy Howle is also superb as young Edward Mayhew a man trying to figure out who he wants to be. He’s a headstrong individual with a temper but when we first meet him he has reined it in trying to be a better person. He defines himself by those around him and what they think of him, first his parents and now Florence. He’s naive and unfortunately, this is a major character flaw.
The use of flashbacks gives us a further look into the backgrounds of both of our characters and how they are shaped by their families and the events surrounding their families. This was an interesting element but ultimately seeing flashbacks turn into flashbacks inside flashbacks became somewhat convoluted and took away from my enjoyment of the film. The film is beautiful though, director Dominic Cooke and his crew have wonderfully recreated the various time periods we visit in. The locales chosen are also beautiful in particular Edwards home which feels lovingly lived in. Many of the best scenes in the film happen at Edward’s home with his family and Florence and it makes the film all the more tragic when it comes to its climax.
The problem I mainly had with On Chesil Beach was that in my opinion it should be a mini-series, same actors, same crew just given more time to explore what happened to these two people that damaged them both. At 110 minutes it’s a decent length to give a nice brief story but these characters to me felt like they deserved more and this is due to the talent of Howle and Ronan.
On Chesil Beach is a story about two people trapped in their past so they can’t proceed to their future and with stellar performances from our two leads, this is a great film hampered by over usage of certain elements and questionable dialogue at times.