On Chesil Beach

Directed by Dominic Cooke, starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle

In 1962, particularly in England, sex was not something many people talked about openly. Hell today some people still don’t  want to talk about it.  But in 1962, around the onset of the sexual revolution, most people were not speaking openly about sex.

This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, takes us to the seaside resort where Florence and Edward have arrived for their honeymoon. We initially find them walking on the beach.  They are not so easy together, and at this point you know nothing about them so you would almost wonder if this was an arranged marriage.  But no, as we learn from flashbacks, they were genuinely in love. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Florence’s family is wealthy, poised and focused on keeping up appearances, while Edward’s father is a school teacher and his family struggles a bit given his mother suffered brain damage after a head injury.  Edward likes rock and roll music, while Florence, a violinist, prefers classical concertos.  They say opposites attract, but their differences will prove otherwise.

A large part of the film centres on their wedding night, a most awkward attempt at intimacy and the heartbreaking result of their inability to share how they truly feel.  The film flips back to moments in their relationship before their wedding so that we can see they truly care for each other.  The frustration we feel as we watch and imagine how many couples would have gone through something like this, is what this film does so very well.

The first 2/3rds of the film were incredible. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle deliver spectacularly with this very delicate subject, doing justice to the very uncomfortable disappointment and heartbreak that ensues.

Unfortunately the filmmaker Dominic Cooke, and screenwriter, Ian McEwan, decided to add material to the screenplay not originally in the novel. Fastforward to the future where older versions of Florence and Edward, who look like burn victims, enact a very tacky Hollywood ending that didn’t suit the first part of the film. If you watch the film, you can stop watching at the point where Edward tells his friends the story then fast forward to the final flashback on the beach.  You will know what I mean. Yes, there are parts where he looks like his been out in the sun too long, but this part of the film is ok for an ending.  Do not go any further. Thank me later.

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