© Prokino (FOX)

Am Strand (On Chesil Beach)
U.K. 2017

Opening 21 Jun 2018

Directed by: Dominik Cooke
Writing credits: Ian McEwan
Principal actors: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Anne-Marie Duff, Emily Watson, Mark Donald

Over dinner en-suite, Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) struggle to converse. Words, phrases, and sentences trigger flashbacks to their serendipitous meeting, individual backgrounds, and then return to Dorset, England on their wedding night. It is 1962, with pre-liberation’s societal dictums. As they grapple on the bed, more obvious is the magnitude of an emotional and maturity gulf.

Sailing, tennis, and classical music figure in the Ponting’s suffocating, orderly home life rectitude. Florence and Ruth’s (Bebe Cave) closeness offsets demanding class-conscience parents (Emily Watson, Samuel West). Whereas, dad (Adrian Scarborough), the twins (Anna Burgess, Mia Burgess) and Edward accept that the Mayhew’s relaxed household spins around artistic yet worrisome Marjorie (Anne-Marie Duff). Edward and Florence’s differences compel exploration, encourage admiration, and nurture love. Conversely, common denominators inherent in the sans-intimacy era instead fuels frustration, resentments, and embarrassment.

Dominik Cooke directs Ian McEwan’s screenplay based on McEwan’s same-titled bestselling novel. Some books, though, do not lend themselves to the lack of intimacy of the big screen. Incongruity results from pacing that is not simply the editor’s (Nick Fenton) responsibility. Three-fourths of the film’s focus is while at the seaside hotel on Chesil Beach—one quick scene hints at fatherly misconduct, then jumps forward 13-years to a few sketchy scenes that become patchier at the end in 2007. The cast is sound: Ronan and Howe add believability to somewhat fragmentary dialogue scenes; Duff and Watson as the mums command their scenes. From the get-go, music (Dan Jones) and cinematography (Sean Bobbitt) is a charming asset. Foresight is much more significant in hindsight, which makes this “bouncy and merry” film easy-to-watch.  (Marinell Haegelin)

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