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Billy Howle

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach represents my early pick for Best Picture.

Adapting his own novella, Ian McEwan presents a heartbreakingly honest portrait of a newlywed couple and the qualities that tear them apart. Beautifully conceived by director Dominic Cooke and lensed by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, its narrative layers naturally coalesce in this meditation on love, cultural mores, and personal sacrifice.

The chemistry between rising star Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan—who has matured into the finest actress of her generation since she appeared in Joe Wright’s adaptation of McEwan’s Atonement—is palpable. They carry emotional weight capable of moving audiences to tears.

The Seagull

Anton Chekhov's play receives a serviceable, if slight, adaptation from Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World). He directs his ensemble cast with poise, allowing his camera to roam about the confined lakeside setting as if it were a fly on the wall. Although the film plays it safe, how the cast embody their roles is particularly captivating. Annette Bening is alternately vivacious and cruel; Saoirse Ronan is radiant; and Corey Stoll gives his best performance since his portrayal of Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris. The rest of the cast add charm to this comedy’s delights.