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TIFF Review: On Chesil Beach

While on their honeymoon a young couple attempts to have sex with rather awkward and surprising results.

Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) are spending the first night of their honeymoon at a small hotel located next to Chesil Beach.  As they try to have sex with each other a series of present day mishaps and flashbacks occur providing insight into their upbringing and how the newlyweds first met.

Social awkwardness is a great way to convey a variety of emotions as an action can be funny and sad at the same time.  Filmmaker Dominic Cooke is able to get the most out of the premise of a young couple overcoming self-doubts and anxiety about having sex with each other for the first time.  There is an endearing quality to their struggle and Saoirse Ronan continues to be one of the most reliable actresses with her soulful and conflicted performance.

But then everything changes.  The problem is that author Ian McEwan loves having twists in his stories as was the case with Atonement which also starred Saoirse Ronan.  Two shots on a boat serve as a convenient and jarring explanation for a particular character’s decision rather than having a profound impact on the audience.  The major reveal is part of the fundamental flaw in the narrative that undermines all that has gone on before; it shifts the story from being a light-hearted and touching social commentary that sexual inhibitions are perfectly normal to a melodramatic and morose tale with daddy issues.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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