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Non-Review Review: On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach is a messy and awkward adaptation of Ian McEwan’s story, adapted by the writer from his own work.

McEwan’s source material might be better described as a “novella” than as a “novel”, with the writer describing it as such and the book generating some small controversy when shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Indeed, the film strains when it tries to extend the novella’s core idea out into a feature-length film, often struggling to find focus and to hold its attention. The result is a very uneven piece of work.

Love on the rocks.

However, On Chesil Beach provides an intriguing mess of interesting ideas and solid performances. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle cannot hold the film together, but provide a set of interesting characters that provide the closest thing that the film has to a throughline. The film works best when it is willing to focus on these two characters together, when it moves away from its free-association aesthetic towards something more concrete.

On Chesil Beach never quite coheres into a fully-formed film, often feeling more like a televison movie or a stage play than a theatrical release. Still, there is something interesting playing beneath the surface, often lost in heavy-handed writing or awkward segues.

It ain’t no picnic.

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