On Chesil Beach

Romance movies have been a genre mainstay since cinema was invented. From the early silent era to today’s digitally enhanced world, film-makers have used romantic fables to ply their trade. Several have become enduring classics with their lovelorn iconic imagery refusing to subside. Whilst ‘On Chesil Beach’ isn’t a top-drawer romance, it differs from others. Based on Ian McEwan’s novel and set in 1962, ‘On Chesil Beach’ is an interesting study in relationships and looking for love in the wrong places.

Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are a newly married couple on their honeymoon. Following an idyllic courtship, they look forward to their life together. In spite of their different backgrounds and pressure to conform to the era’s moral standards, Florence and Edward are determined to carve their own future. On the verge of consummating their marriage, events take an unexpected turn with ramifications felt for the rest of their lives.

‘On Chesil Beach’ is an engrossing examination of forced expectations and abiding regrets. Those elements are hardly the basis of a typical romance story which is why ‘On Chesil Beach’ generally works. Florence and Edward are two fractured people who discover each other amidst bad circumstances. Coupled with the moral strictures of the times, their conflicting attitudes make ‘On Chesil Beach’ a solid drama of passion and lost loves.

Howle and Ronan give fine performances from a screenplay by the book’s author. Dominic Cooke’s direction ensures the peculating tension doesn’t run out of steam. He avoids the clichés of most romantic movies, allowing the performances and wonderful period setting tells the tale. It’s fascinating how closed-minded parts of the era were with the days of keeping secrets about love, sex and mental illness thankfully more open now than ‘On Chesil Beach’ shows.

Although it may be more serious-minded for romance-lovers, ‘On Chesil Beach’ tells its own important story. Being more open in communicating feelings and personal issues are a few of its messages which still resonates. Romance movies will never go out of style but exploring different aspects of it like ‘On Chesil Beach’ does should see the genre continue in whatever form cinema takes in the future.

Rating out of 10: 7

Love, Simon

Based on Becky Albertalli’s novel, ‘Love, Simon’ is a breath of fresh air. For a long time, romance movies featuring gay characters have usually ended in heartbreak. While this ‘gay romantic tragedy’ genre has seen several films win praise and awards, it’s been frustrating not seeing a gay romance without the spectre of death hovering over characters. ‘Love, Simon’ ignores that awful device and goes for a simple coming of age romance. Although having a few gay clichés generally seen in American movies, it dares to offer brightness amongst the gloom of cinematic same-sex relationships.

Simon (Nick Robinson) is a closeted gay teenager attending high school. Although close to his parents Jack (Josh Duhamel) and Emily (Jennifer Garner), he hasn’t told them his secret. Whilst grappling with this issue, he begins an on-line connection with a fellow class-mate. The problem is this person goes under a codename with Simon left guessing as to who he may be. Aided by his friends, Simon attempts to discover his current crush and come out to his family.

Although walking a predictable path, ‘Love, Simon’ doesn’t have any false sincerity. Many of the situations and feelings Simon has ring true as he tries to solve his problems. Learning about love, betrayal and hope, Simon’s journey from the film’s beginning is interesting. Whilst occasionally indulging in the usual American sentimentality, the emotions the characters feel seem real. The performances are all solid with a great 80’s-style soundtrack capturing the bright days for which Simon longs.

Greg Berlanti directs with compassion, making ‘Love, Simon’ feel more personal than most. Berlanti ensures the comedy and drama are effectively mixed allowing the movie’s themes to clearly stand out. The concept of having a mystery for audiences to solve also enables them to remain invested in proceedings with the reveal not as easy as expected.

‘Love, Simon’ may be a little overlong and familiar, but it marks its territory amidst a glut of ‘gay romantic despair’ films. Its optimism makes it more daring than others and charts a unique course in the teen-angst genre. With marriage equality now a reality, hopefully the issues Simon faces will gradually fade with respectful acceptance being something all should learn.

Rating out of 10: 7