On Chesil Beach

1 hr. 50 min. | Rated M | Nudity and sex scenes.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Emily Watson, Samuel West

If Brooklyn and Lady Bird hadn't already swayed you, this latest British drama provides more compelling evidence as to why Saoirse Ronan is one of the finest actors of her generation.
Reuniting with Ian McEwan, the author who gave her her breakthrough role (2007's Atonement), the 24-year-old delivers a haunting and heartbreaking performance as a young woman confused and terrified by the realities of marriage in early 1960s Britain.
When we first meet Florence Ponting (Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle), they are basking in the afterglow of their wedding ceremony.
Having decamped to a hotel on Dorset's Chesil Beach, both are looking forward to the establishment's three-course meal, complete with in-room silver service.
However, as the melon with a glace cherry entree gives way to the beef main, it's clear that one of them is far more nervous than the other about what comes after dessert.
A fabulous supporting cast (Emily Watson, Adrian Scarborough, Anne-Marie Duff) helps flesh out the story, while McEwan hasn't been afraid to tinker with his own tale in making the time-advanced coda both feel more cinematic, satisfying and tear-inducing all at once.
But it's perhaps first-time director Dominic Cooke (best known for his work at Britain's National Theatre) who deserves the biggest plaudits. He gets the tricky tone just right, perfectly capturing the heightening tension as the honeymoon feast unfolds, delicately deals with Florence's central horror and leaves the viewer with plenty to ponder come the final frames.
One of the most powerful, poignant dramas in years.

Christchurch Press

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