September 7, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “On Chesil Beach” & “Loveless”


ON CHESIL BEACH (no distrib):  Ian McEwan’s longish novella/shortish novel has been adapted by McEwan himself into a fluid and extremely English film, the first feature directed by stage director Dominic Cooke.  The main action takes place during the honeymoon night of Florence (Saorirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) in 1962, with copious flashbacks that suggest the reasons for the disaster that’s going to take place.  McEwan and Cooke try to be allusive rather than comprehensive, with factors including the era, the British class system and the personal history of the bride and groom taken into account.  As in the written work, however, there’s one particular cause that, once invoked, even as carefully as it is here, can’t help but overwhelm the rest.  There’s nothing here like the cumulative power of the similar moment in Atonement (which also starred Ronan) when all the pieces of its story came together, and On Chesil Beach remains little more than a sad anecdote, one tied up a bit too neatly with an epilogue that doesn’t appear in the book.  There’s excellent work by Ronan and Howle to be admired, though, as well as moving supporting performances by Anne-Marie Duff and Adrian Scarborough as Edward’s troubled parents, and lovely photography by Sean Bobbitt.

LOVELESS (Sony Pictures Classics):  Nobody does misery quite like the Russians, and filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev, along with co-screenwriter Oleg Negin, has served up quite a wretchedness sandwich here.  Zvyagintsev’s last film was the sprawling, hugely ambitious allegory Leviathan, but his focus is much tighter here.  Loveless has the premise of a potential thriller:  a 12-year old boy has disappeared, and his bitterly estranged parents Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexei Rozin) reluctantly have to join forces to try and find him.  But this plot is much more Antonioni than Dennis Lehane, and the search for their son has the stink of futility from the very start.  Loveless is unrelentingly bleak:  even when characters profess their love for each other, they’re photographed (by the masterful Mikhail Krichman) cloaked in darkness, making protestations to a void.  Zvyagintsev isn’t shy about suggesting that the uncaring way Russia treats its children is reflected in its national policies, and it’s not a surprise that the Russian government gave the production no financial support.  The film is made with superb control, and the performances are as plaintive and distressing as the director wanted them to be, but after 127 minutes, it starts to feel as though the characters aren’t the only ones being punished.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."