On Chesil Beach
I loved Saoirse Ronan so much in Brooklyn, I just wished the movie was better. Luckily, her next film had another terrific performance and was amazing (Lady Bird). She’s great in everything she does, and this movie is no exception. It’s just a shame the movie is such a mess. It’s monotonous and cliche ridden, and my wife and I kept asking each other why the various scenarios that were happening were happening.
From the commercials, you’re a bit confused, as a man (Billy Howle of Dunkirk) is yelling at his wife Florence (Ronan) on the beach, telling her that they’re married. He has a rock in his hand, and you get the feeling she just had an affair, and she’s about to get smacked in the head with a piece of driftwood or something. Well, what actually happened is a lot duller than that. They simply had a wedding night that…didn’t go as planned in the bedroom.
It’s stuffy England in the early ‘60s. Edward (Howle) is seen in the beginning, trying to get his radio station to come in clear so he can hear Chuck Berry [side note: I did enjoy the music in this film. The Schubert String Quartet No 14, Rachmaninov, Mozart, Little Richard, T. Rex, Bach, Amy Winehouse, and Roy Hawkins original version of “The Thrill is Gone”.]
We see Edward loves rock ‘n roll. Florence loves the classical pieces, and she’s a rather successful cello player.
On the wedding day, we see the couple having dinner, before the two virgins have their disaster in the bedroom. The film is shown in flashbacks. We see the courtship, and it’s nice the two have chemistry. It’s just a shame we get the usual movie cliches. Parents that are rich jerks (Samuel West of Darkest Hour and Emily Watson).
His parents are working class. The mom (Anne-Marie Duff of Suffragette) is a bit nutty. She likes to paint, often while nude. That’s because of a brain injury she suffered. That means we get to watch as Florence cooks dinner for them, and brings her art supplies and shows herself to be an amazing woman. Dad even quips to his son, “You better marry this girl.”
One thing that I was curious about was if you had such a horrible wedding night, would that ruin the marriage? Is that even a thing? Now, we live in a day and age where most couples don’t marry as virgins. If a wedding night was the most awful sex you could have, does that end the marriage? I would think that’s not the case. I know a woman in her 80’s who told me about her first husband and of a sexual problem he had. It made her dislike the sex, but what ended that marriage was his drinking and personality. The way the characters in this movie handle their “incident” just seemed….bizarre and unrealistic; that’s because this wasn’t some arranged marriage. These two both seem to love each other and are happy together. Even when he shows up and watches her practice classical pieces that he knows little about, he’s bopping his head along and seems impressed.
Since screenwriter Ian McEwan is adapting his own novel, the blame lies on him (and perhaps a bit to the film director, Dominic Cooke, who usually does stage work).
Don’t be fooled by the critics that are going to praise this movie. It’s an English period piece, so they think they’re required to like it. It’s getting 70% good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. At least 30% of the critics got it right.
I’m giving it 1 ½ stars out of 5.