SAOIRSE’S SEASIDE STORY
Ronan exels in another heartbreaking role newlywed let down society’s expectations
IT’S a week where two very different movies have caught my eye but both are worthy of a watch.
On Chesil Beach shares a theme of thwarted romance with Deadpool 2, but they are about as different as two films could be.
It is the first cinematic feature by Dominic Cooke, an acclaimed theatre director whose stage expertise shines from this sad, sensitive, altogether enthralling adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel. I confess I haven’t read it; my wife assured me I wouldn’t like it, on the basis that nothing much happens. Well, I’m in no position to judge the book. But Cooke, working from McEwan’s own screenplay, has certainly turned the story of two young newlyweds into a compelling if at times excruciating spectacle.
They are Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan). We first meet them on the day of their wedding, after they’ve arrived at a starchy hotel on the Dorset coast to begin their honeymoon.
It is 1962, which as you’ll recall from Philip Larkin’s oft-quoted poem Annus Mirabilis, was a whole year before the start of the sexual revolution. There are certainly no signs of its early tremors in their hotel room, where husband and wife approach the bed like wrongly-convicted innocents going to the gallows.
The events of their wedding night provide the fulcrum of the story as it seesaws to and fro in time, explaining how they fell in love and what happens in later life.
At first, the film unfolds like a comedy of 1962 manners, with a pair of sniggering room service waiters setting out melon with a cherry on top, and disastrously overcooked roast beef.
But gradually it becomes something much more poignant, and on the way it puts an entire, class-ridden society under the microbereft scope, I was reminded a little of Joseph Losey’s 1971 film The Go-Between, another careful literary adaptation, which did the same for Edwardian England.
All this is aided by some superlative acting. The two leads are wonderful, especially Ronan, but there are also some cherishable supporting performances, notably from Anne-Marie Duff as Billy’s artist mother, braindamaged since being clonked on the head by the open door of a moving train.
There are a few small missteps. When we whirl forward to 2007, the cosmetic work to make Billy look 45 years older gives him the appearance of a burns victim. They could have used what they spent on make-up to hire another actor altogether. Never mind. It really is a deeply affecting film but I expect the queues for Deadpool 2 will be longer.
WITH Avengers: Infinity War still obliterating virtually everything before it at the box office, the producers of Deadpool 2 can be forgiven a collective gulp as their film goes head to head, superhero v superhero, with a genuine cinematic behemoth.
That the two films are cousins, both inspired by Marvel Comics characters, counts for nothing.
But they are also different beasts, and that’s where the sequel to 2016’s huge hit Deadpool might score with audiences.
It deservedly carries a 16 certificate for ‘strong bloody violence, sex references and very strong language’. Avengers: Infinity War, which as the title suggests does not exactly stint on death and destruction itself, is nevertheless a 12A.
Deadpool is even more ribald and subversive than the first film, and pulsates with sardonic, self-aware wit from the opening shot. Even the soundtrack plays along; as we see our titular hero (Ryan Reynolds, who also gets a co-writing credit) going about his daily business, slaughtering baddies and spraying drop-dead quips, as Dolly Parton belts out 9 To 5.
On the domestic front, all is well in Deadpool’s world. Despite his alter ego Wade Wilson’s terrible facial scarring, he is adored by his gorgeous girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). They spend their evenings watching Yentl and planning a family.
But this is a flashback. We have already seen Deadpool in despair, yearning to die — which is no easy matter given that his superpower is self-regenerative healing. What has gone so badly wrong? Very deftly, Reynolds finds a way of weaving his character’s sharp sense of humour with the suicidal depression that lasts for most of the movie. Once he’s lost Vanessa (okay, I’ve given it away, but I’m sure you guessed) he is
of any kind of family. The one he was born into certainly doesn’t count. ‘Family was always an F-word to me,’ he muses. But after he advertises for his own X-Men-inspired gang of superheroes to tackle Cable, a super-soldier from the future splendidly played by Josh Brolin, he finally acquires a family of sorts. And what an eclectic lot they are, including Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower, deliciously, is simply being lucky. Russell, who He even gains an odd little also a fellow surrogate goes by called son, the mutant name Firefist and has a whole heap of sorrows. He’s been abused at the ‘Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation’ and worse still, Cable is intent on killing him.
Dennison, RUSSELL, is played incidentally, the by chubby Julian Kiwi boy who got his ibig break in quirky 2016 comedy Taika Hunt Waititi’s For The Wilderpeople. ‘Have you ever seen a plus-size superhero?’ he laments here. ‘The industry discriminates.’ In another inspired casting choice, US comic Rob Delaney, a TV regular, also pops up as one of the team, a guy called Peter who doesn’t have a superpower but answered the advert anyway. On the way to battle he slaps on suncream. ‘I don’t know much about this Cable fella, but I guarantee he hasn’t killed as many people as melanoma has,’ he mutters. The one-liners fly from lots of different directions, but mainly from Deadpool himself, who repeatedly puts his fist through the so-called fourth wall dividing the movie from its audience, alluding to the first film’s boxoffice takings, expressing the hope that the Academy might be watching during a particularly emotional scene, and even signing an autograph as Ryan Reynolds.
All this, plus numerous popcultural allusions (Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Frozen, Basic Instinct, the Bourne films, MatthewMcConaughey and Sabrina The Teenage Witch all get namechecks), could, in less able hands, become tiresome.
But like the wit, the highoctane action, skilfully choreographed by director David Leitch, a former stunt coordinator, rarely relents.
Besides, Reynolds has the slick charm to pull it off, perhaps most wickedly of all when he mocks another movie franchise altogether.
‘You’re so dark,’ he tells Cable, ‘are you sure you’re not from the DC Universe?’
Poignant: Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach
Quirky: Ryan Reynolds as our hero in Deadpool 2 (above) with Josh Brolin (inset) as Cable.