On Chesil Beach15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
If you want to get to know someone, technology has arguably made it easier than ever. Poke here, swipe right there, follow someone everywhere. It hasn’t always been that easy however, just ask your parents, if they’re still talking to each other, that is.
In Dominic Cooke’s film, based on Ian McEwan’s book, he puts a young couple’s relationship under a microscope, during a period when microscopes didn’t require plugging in.
It’s 1962 and the sixties have yet to get fully swinging in England. When Florence (Saoirise Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) meet, they both feel a connection has been made. Although their liberal outlooks are similar, society has yet to develop to the point where talking openly about your emotions and feelings is acceptable.
Everything appears to be going well for the couple, on the surface at least, but beneath lurks angst and doubt, which just so happens to erupt on their big day.
Novelist McEwan is no stranger to seeing his work adapted for the big screen, most notably with 2007’s Oscar-winning Atonement. This is one of those rare occasions where he’s written the screenplay too, which may be part of the film’s problem.
The film isn’t helped by a choppy narrative; dipping in and out of the couple’s timeline during a short period of time. Focus is lost in all the back and forth, and doesn’t really enhance the story. On top of that, the timeline then jumps briefly into 1975, and then again to 2007; the reveals in these timelines are far shorter, and the story could have benefitted possibly from further explanation during these times. In doing so, the first part of the film is just too top heavy.
It’s also unfortunate that one of the characters he introduces, Edward’s mother Marjorie – played superbly by Anne-Marie Duff – is vastly more interesting than the characters around her, and it’s really her story that could have benefitted from being told.
And although the leads give strong performances, particularly from Howle, their characters are just far too incredibly wet and drippy to care about.
On the positive side, Dominic Cooke impresses visually on his directorial debut, framing the period beautifully and dipping the film in a pleasing retro sheen.
It’s just a shame that McEwan’s own words failed to make the journey from page to screen with vibrancy and life intact.