British cinema has been well represented at this year’s TIFF, with some 30 UK productions spread across the lineup. At the prestige end of the spectrum, we find On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novella written by the author himself. McEwan – doing double duty at the festival with Richard Eyre’s film The Children Act – claimed that the notion of a film version was far from his mind while he worked on the original story, but noted that the slimmed-down format of the source made it simpler to adapt than a full-blown novel.
Set in 1962, the film stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as two newlyweds, Florence and Edward, who are on their honeymoon in Dorset. The two are very much in love, but now their relationship has stepped up a level and consummating the marriage is the elephant in the (bed)room. As the two cagily approach their first time as man and wife together, director Dominic Cooke cuts between the past and present, to show how the bucolic autodidact and blues fan Edward came to meet the sophisticated Florence, a middle-class violinist with a classical string quartet. Contrasting with the rosy visions of the past, in which Florence becomes the unexpected darling of Edward’s family, the wedding night is an awkward, stressful affair, doomed to end in heartbreak.
Cooke spoke of the film as a reaction to the “toxic nostalgia” that seems to be coloring every country in the world these days, with the U.S. and UK harking back to the glory days of the past. On Chesil Beach, he said, is a reminder of the grim strictures of the early ’60s, in a Britain very much driven along class lines, where even Florence’s anti-nuke sympathies are seen as tantamount to Communism.
See the video above for more.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.