Monday, May 28, 2018

Independent FIlm Festival Boston 2018.33: On Chesil Beach

On the one hand, it's kind of tacky to use the "day 33" gag in the title when I haven't actually finished my regular IFFBoston reviews yet. But it seemed fitting, as something like five out of six previews shown before this movie - the exception being Crazy Rich Asians - were for other movies that had played during the festival. Nancy and her team put together a schedule full of stuff that turned out to be pretty in-demand, and hopefully got folks to notice the less-prominent selections playing alongside them.

On Chesil Beach

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 27 May 2018 in AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run, DCP)

There's no missing the point with On Chesil Beach; even before a couple flash-forwards that hammer things home in the most obvious way possible, it's clear what the filmmakers are talking about and where events are headed. It's not really a problem, since it's being played out by a couple of fine young actors and seldom fails to be anything less than beautifully mounted.

It opens in 1962, with young couple Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) honeymooning in the title's seaside town. Both just out of university, they're a bit of an unusual pairing - she's a musician from an upper-class family, he's from far more modest circumstances and studied history. They are nevertheless genuinely in love, but consummating the marriage weighs heavily on their minds - though they've kissed and been affectionate, both are virgins, and Florence in particular is tremendously nervous about her first time.

There's some clever foreshadowing of this right in the first scene, as they walk along a rocky beach talking about Chuck Berry, and Florence in particular is only able to dissect it on a technical level. Berry's sweaty, instinctual rock & roll has an energy that Florence has no experience with despite her being less repressed than she initially appears. Director Dominic Cooke and writer Ian McEwan (adapting his own novel) don't underline this particular point home as hard as they do later ones, and instead use it to build an interesting structure: A somewhat formal present-tense that draws on Cooke's time directing theater to build scenes around just Florence and Edward, putting them in a particular space and having them talk, which allows for flashbacks that seem a bit more open and filmic, from the one where they meet because Edward has nobody in his family he can show his pride in his school marks to later moments that work because of compression, nested timelines, and movement.

Full review on EFC

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