Saturday, June 9, 2018

Movie Review: "On Chesil Beach" (2018)

Director: Dominic Cooke
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A newly married couple prepares for their wedding night while they reflect on the relationship that brought them to this point and why their consummation is difficult.
"People think you're shy, but in fact, you're rather tough, aren't you?" (Image Source)
Most awkward wedding night ever! "On Chesil Beach" is the feature film debut of director Dominic Cooke. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, who also wrote the screenplay for this movie as well. McEwan is probably best known for his novel "Atonement," which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. He has also written screenplays for movies like "The Innocent" and "The Good Son." The film is focused on a recently married couple, Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle), and primarily takes place on the couple's wedding night, which is meant to lead up to their eventual consummation. In the time leading up to their attempt at intercourse, the couple chats about their past as a series of flashbacks show what led to them being married and why Florence seems determined to delay wedding night coitus as long as possible.
"We don't have to live like everyone else." (Image Source)
This movie has two very distinct parts separated by a wedding night row, as Florence puts it. The first half of the film is a very stuffy, super British period piece that explores one of the most uninteresting, plain yogurt relationships imaginable. Briefly mentioned are things like the class difference between Florence and Edward, as well as Edward's mother's brain damage. None of these issues are fully explored or create any of the expected drama that would add a little life to this otherwise bland movie. There is another intense subject that is brought up as an explanation for why Florence is the way she is, though it's dropped just as quickly as it is introduced.

After a long stretch of essentially nothing, "On Chesil Beach" comes to a head in what would seem like a climactic argument that does start to garner our interest. Once this argument is fulfilled, we expected a somber and slightly tragic ending, but alas, the story continues. The entire third act of the film feels like it doesn't actually fit with the story. The events that take place in the third act irked BigJ so much that he went from seeing this as only slightly dull and stodgy to downright ridiculous. This third act brings up so many questions and inconsistencies in the plot that instead of enjoying the story, questions of unresolved issues kept spinning through his head. To make matters worse, there is an overly schmaltzy Hollywood-style ending meant to leave the audience with a bittersweet closure we didn't buy for a second.
"What am I to do with you?" (Image Source)
Despite wonderful performances by both Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle, "On Chesil Beach" left us feeling conflicted about what we had just watched. While there are brief moments of intrigue, the ending is baffling and super cheesy, and the story itself feels woefully misguided at times. Half the time, plot points are dropped in favor of cliches, and the other half of the time, our hands are held each step of the way. This is a very surface-level romance that could have delved deep into the subject of women's sexual repression and how the act of sex was almost exclusively for males, but it's just not smart enough to capitalize on this subject. It just wants to play peaceful orchestral music as people argue, all while the script doesn't actually say anything of importance and hope hard that the audience doesn't notice.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
RT Rating: 69%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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