"Social and Moral Gibberish"
What You Need To Know:
ON CHESIL BEACH sometimes beautifully communicates the emotions of pure, first love and the changes in social mores in the 1960s. The young couple is obviously in love, despite their differences. After the disastrous wedding night, however, the movie argues people should be able to have other partners, even if they’re married. Thus, ON CHESIL BEACH has a Romantic, lawless worldview attacking traditional views of sex and marriage, though one character does uphold the traditional view. Ultimately, despite the movie’s positive depiction of two people falling in love, MOVIEGUIDE® finds the primary message of ON CHESIL BEACH unacceptable.
ON CHESIL BEACH is a romantic drama, set in England in 1962 on the cusp of the “Sexual Revolution,” about the romance of a chaste couple, whose marriage totally disintegrates on their wedding night. ON CHESIL BEACH is a carefully constructed drama that often captures the softness and delicacy of a first love, but it falls apart during the third act and has a Romantic, politically correct view of marriage and romance that favors the alleged “openness” of the Sexual Revolution, which, in reality, has been a disaster for society, especially for children, teenagers and young adults, as well as the institution of marriage.
Like the author of the novel on which the movie’s based, Director Dominic Cooke centers the story around one scene, the wedding night of Florence and Edward. As the virginal couple eats dinner, they experience the anticipation, tension, awkwardness, and fear of consummating their marriage for the first time. That effort hits a huge snag, which leads to a flashback about how they met, how they fell in love, and how their past lives shaped them into the person they came to be as they begin their honeymoon. When the consummation of their marriage fails, it leads to a conversation about what a sexual relationship in marriage should be.
For the most part, ON CHESIL BEACH is beautifully made except for the third act. Director Dominic Cooke subtly captures the softness and delicacy of a first and pure love through mood, the cinematography, sets, and the visual, dramatic arrangement in each scene. He also displays a skillful use of music, including classical music, rock n’ roll, or no music at all. Though the production is exceptional, the ending leaves viewers wanting more character and plot development, especially when certain choices by the characters appear to come from nowhere and don’t align with what the movie previously reveals. Also, the movie spends lots of time developing Florence and Edward’s past, but the ending, which jumps ahead to 1975, lacks the same heart, nuance and depth.
Most of the movie presents marriage in a traditional manner, as being between one man and wife who commit their lives to one another forever, both body and soul. The young couple is obviously in love, though their families that forged their character are clearly different. After the disastrous wedding night, however, the movie argues that people should be able to have other partners, even if they’re married. This, of course, is social and moral gibberish.
Ultimately, therefore, despite the movie’s positive depiction of two people falling in love and then getting married, ON CHESIL BEACH has a Romantic, lawless worldview attacking traditional views of sex and marriage. Eventually, it extols the “Sexual Revolution” and its destruction of these traditional views, although the movie never gets extremely graphic or lewd. One character in the movie, though, does uphold the traditional view of marriage.
OIN CHESIL BEACH also contains brief foul language and a crude reference to a man’s private parts. Also, there are two scenes where the man’s brain-damaged mother is shown either fully naked or topless. Violence is kept to a minimum, involving one brief fistfight. Finally, there are allusions to the bride having been sexually abused by her father. In fact, it’s partly that abuse that comes between her and her new husband, separating them forever.
Ultimately, MOVIEGUIDE® finds the primary message of ON CHESIL BEACHJ unacceptable. The movie also contains some gratuitous objectionable content.