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On Chesil Beach 2018 ****

Adapting Ian McEwan is a tricky business; for every Atonement, there’s a The Children’s Act; not everything that works on the page adapts well to the big-screen. McEwan himself adapts On Chesil Beach, and Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan stars alongside Billy Howie as Florence and Edward, two newly-weds whose wedding night is blighted by their own lack of understanding on sex. Dominic Cooke’s film is a two-hander in a theatrical way, but the 1962 setting is well-caught through a few persuasive details, and the lunar atmosphere on the beach itself adds a certain cinematic feel. Ronan in particular excels here, managing to create a complex picture of a woman who is bound by the conventions of her time, but understands that she could, and might still, rise above them. The codas, bleak as they are, are almost a relief after the intensity of the wedding-night and aftermath; On Chesil Beach is adult fare, and one of the best representations of McEwan’s work to date.

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