Beside the Seaside presents a beguiling picture of summer pleasures. Director Marion Grierson inventively switches styles and techniques, shooting faces from below, as if from the perspective of the beach, to capture the wonder of the children at what they’ve found. Overlapping snippets of dialogue convey the diversity of seaside visitors and present the absorbing oddity of overheard conversation.
The film is imaginatively edited and in places cut surprisingly quickly, given its overall relaxed mood. The lyrical commentary, by poet W.H. Auden, adds a wry touch: “The heat beats on the streets. The homeless and the ice cream vendors congratulate themselves... the hands of the clock appear too tired too move.”
Marion Grierson had an intriguing career in documentary filmmaking, despite living in the shadow of her brother John, the founding figure of the British documentary movement, and their tragically shortlived sister Ruby. Her style displays an assured lightness of touch and draws inventively on a sophisticated array of techniques. Her films were seen abroad more than in the UK, which perhaps explains why they are little known today.