On Chesil Beach Blu-ray Review
"with my body I thee worship..."
On Chesil Beach Film Review
Saoirse Ronan continues her strong run after Lady Bird with this contemplative tale of sex and marriage.Based on a short novella by the same name - Booker Prize-nominated no less - On Chesil Beach is a Olivier Award-winning Theatre director and Bafta Award-winning TV director Dominic Cooke's directorial debut. It's a surprisingly resonant, if slight, affair, which has the simple concept of depicting the damage done on a couple's wedding night.
It shows the build-up in the relationship, the forces at play conspiring against them (a brain-damaged mum for him; a possibly abusive father for her), and intersperses these with a wedding evening and night where everything goes wrong.
It likely would have made for a better play.
Whilst it sounds like the material for a farce, this is everything but, with Cooke wringing every ounce of discomfort out of the scenario, and playing it with a somewhat disarmingly emotional core. Ronan and Dunkirk's Billy Howle drive the piece, as the lead couple, with a measured approach to their interaction - at times warm, at times suitably forced, and very occasionally explosive.
It's hard taking yourself back to a time where a newly-married couple could be quite so apart and yet still together - and the period setting doesn't quite sit well; whilst there are reasons why the two are the way they are, it might have felt more convincing if it were set a little farther back in time. That said, the unusually twisty narrative does attempt to pull things back to a stronger conclusion, succeeding somewhat despite the extravagant misdirection along the way.
On Chesil Beach is well-acted (even if it's very stilted acting) and ultimately quite thoughtful, but Cooke plays his theatrical hand a little too much, expecting the novella source to translate into perfect filmic material where it likely would have made for a better play.
On Chesil Beach Blu-ray PictureOn Chesil Beach comes to UK Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, who afford it a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. It's a very good looking film, enjoying the distinctive locales, weathering the English climate, and rendering a largely fabulous presentation for this small-scale movie.
A very good video presentation.
Clarity remains on point throughout, with impressive detail providing textures for the clothing and backdrop, and affording the pebbled beach intimate nuance, whilst close-up observations on faces, skin and hair - particularly some of the third act shots - fare well too. The colour scheme provides an accurate reflection of the lush green English countryside, and grey-blue sky and sea - far from sun-drenched, and a little cold nonetheless, but never less than faithful to the filming environment. Black levels are strong, rounding out a very good video presentation that, in its own quiet little way, often hits reference levels in terms of quality.
On Chesil Beach Blu-ray SoundA strong audio presentation.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix also does a solid job with the limited material, prioritising the most important element in the play-like endeavour - the dialogue - front and centre above the rest of it, whilst effects are nominally natural and atmospheric, with train noises affording a brief spark of more engulfing interaction, and the waves crashing in the background, but the focus really upon the two players. A well-balanced score, blending some jazzy tones with classical interludes props up the non-linear narrative, and rounds out a strong audio presentation that stays faithful to the material.
On Chesil Beach Blu-ray ExtrasNothing substantial.
There's nothing substantial in terms of extras, with the disc avoiding the bare bones label by providing a brief 9 minute overview Featurette that briefly dips into the production, characters, and story, as well as 6 minutes of Deleted Scenes, which are worth a quick watch but don't make or break the experience.
On Chesil Beach Blu-ray VerdictA resonant, if slight, affair.
On Chesil Beach is a refreshingly honest examination of 60s relationship woes, in many ways easy to relate to and possibly even uncomfortable to watch, even if the more contrived elements - and extravagant attempt at misdirection - don't always sit well in line with the rest of the narrative. It's well-acted, but may have ultimately made a better stage play even if, for a directorial debut, this is strong work, and it only adds to Ronan's increasingly impressive resume.
Lionsgate's UK Blu-ray release affords the film strong video and audio and a smattering of extra features, delivering a package which fans will want to pick up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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