2018 Summer Movie Review: On Chesil Beach

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Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) have doubts about getting married in On Chesil Beach. (Source: IMDb)

24-year-old Saoirse Ronan has certainly matured over the years. No matter how good or bad her movies are, her charming, glowing presence has moved audiences worldwide. A young English girl growing up in a wealthy family in Atonement, a badass heroine craving for revenge in Hanna, an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn, and a rebellious high school senior in Lady Bird, there is simply no other role Ronan can’t do. A young newlywed in On Chesil Beach is no exception.

Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle, Dunkirk) and Florence Ponting (Ronan), both in their 20s, just got married and they are very nervous about spending their first night together. On their honeymoon at a hotel on the English coast, they both confess they are virgins. They tell their love story through a series a flashbacks including their first meet-up in Oxford and introducing them to each other’s families. After they have sex for the first time, everything begins to go downhill.

First-time director Dominic Cooke and screenwriter Ian McEwan (adapted from his novella of the same name) do a good job expressing the anxieties of getting marriage at a young age. Kudos to the legendary Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave, The Place Beyond the Pines, and the overlooked Byzantium) for giving a vintage feel in his cinematography. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up how dramatically dull the movie is. The flashbacks prior to their honeymoon, while amusing, are almost inconsistent to the point of boredom.

Ronan and Howle do fine work as the couple as they unravel secrets about each other, which results in a disastrously awkward makeout session. Their argument on the pebble beach is easily the highlight. Their frustration feels and sounds so real as if the audience is watching an actual young couple going at it. Other than the fact they both love music and walks in the forest, and have no sexual experience, they certainly have the feeling they rushed into getting married.

On Chesil Beach has its moments, but it slowly begins to sink as the movie progresses. Not to mention the last act being completely redundant. These two actors are going to star in another film coming out nationwide soon called The Seagull, based on Anton Chekhov’s play. I doubt it will be any better.

2/4

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2018 Summer Movie Review: Hereditary

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Annie (Toni Collette) realizes everything is turning into a living hell for her family in the latest supernatural horror movie Hereditary.

It’s a rarity for a horror movie to steer clear from cheap scares to rely more on atmosphere and character’s suffering. Hereditary has been getting unanimous praise ever since its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; going as far as calling it the scariest movie since The Exorcist. Whenever A24 distributes a horror movie, it gets wide release so audiences nationwide can get their socks scared off them. It’s almost as if I went on a roller-coaster ride from hell; mixing the supernatural with real family drama.

The movie centers on the Graham family. After the matriarch Ellen passes away, they begin to witness strange occurrences around them. Mother Annie (Toni Collette) works at home as an artist making miniatures and dollhouses resembling events within the family. While husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, one of The Usual Suspects), eldest son Peter (Alex Wolff), and young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) cope with the tragedy with her, they soon find out everything is spiraling out of control. The secrets about their ancestry come to life. If I continue talking about the movie, it will ruin the surprise.

In his directorial debut, writer/director Ari Aster has crafted something brilliant. A slow-burning, old-school freak-fest containing some terrifying imagery, kudos to his smooth direction and creepy saxophone music by Colin Stetson. It’s almost as if the Graham house is a character itself. It’s obvious there is something in the house that rubs you the wrong way. Once the mystery slowly begins to unravel, it makes perfect sense on what’s going on.

Collette leads a terrific cast as the mother whose perfect life is ruined by family tragedy. She begins to get support of her grief and explains her disturbing family history. One night, she meets up with old friend Joan (Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale), who teaches her how to communicate with the dead. Once she starts doing the craft, she wants to prove her husband that she isn’t insane and to give in once and for all. This is one of the best performances in any horror movie.

Shapiro makes an impressive acting debut as the teenage daughter, who might be on the autism spectrum. While she rarely talks, she makes a habit of clicking her tongue (which is going to be stuck in everyone’s heads for years to come).

I don’t think everyone will be impressed by Hereditary. My suggestion: the little you know about the movie before going in, the better. This is one of the most terrifying horror movies of the 21st century.

4/4

I also want to share something exciting. I saw author Stephen King went to the same screening I went to last night. At first, I thought to myself, “This couldn’t be him.” Once I heard his voice, I almost lost it. I did have the special opportunity to talk with him for about a minute after the movie was over. We shook hands and I told him I was a big fan of his work. When I asked him what he thought of this movie, he said it was great.