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

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