On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach (Dominic Cooke, 2017) Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle

There is a moment in the film - at the climax (!) I suppose - when there occurs a gesture which must be correctly interpreted for the whole film to make sense. It took a few moments, and some reflexion on my own experience (in 1962, when the film is set, I was about the same age as the main characters) to get it right. Partly because the film is about as awkward and embarrassed as they, the characters, are.

I haven't read McEwan's book either, and I'll hand the mike to Bilge Elbiri, because I also agree with him or her about the film. It's a fascinating insight.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t read McEwan’s novella when I first saw the movie. I admired the film at the time, but couldn’t put my finger exactly on what seemed to be missing. Reading the book, however, clarified matters: somewhere in this story about sex, even if it’s really about the inability to have sex, needs to be, well, sex — or an honest, direct effort to deal with it, at any rate. McEwan the novelist, it seems, isn’t as coy about it as McEwan the screenwriter: For all the measured elegance of his prose, there’s an earthiness to On Chesil Beach that’s missing from the film. The picture is a handsome, at times even moving adaptation — but if you think about it, it suffers from the very reticence it condemns. Bilge Elbiri, Village Voice.

Don't read this review from Chuck Bowen of Slant mag, as he merely retells the story in great detail and comments on that - the story, not the film - as many reviewers do.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 20 March, 2020 | Now: 18 July, 2020