Films such as Atonement and The Child in Time are proof Ian McEwan's novels provide good material for movies. However, film-makers are fast running out of McEwan options, with many saying the books left are too tricky to adapt - with this thought to be one of them.

On Chesil Beach has been adapted by McEwan himself, from his novella of the same name, and marks the feature film directing debut of National Theatre director Dominic Cooke. It's a tasteful, largely restrained and handsomely shot period film, about a young and innocent couple from differing backgrounds whose relationship unravels on their wedding night.

An excellent performance by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Ladybird) as Florence anchors this exploration of sex and intimacy in the early 1960s. A budding violinist from an upper-class family, Florence meets and falls in love with Edward (Billy Howle), a clumsy country lad who's always got a history book in his back pocket.

The story begins in a Dorset hotel on the first night of their honeymoon and then flicks back in time to witness their courtship. As sweet as this is; it's the additional flashbacks to significant moments in each of their lives which provides complexity and layers to the characters, especially Florence.


Howle (Dunkirk) does a solid job with a tricky and potentially unsympathetic role. While the chemistry between Ronin and Howle isn't as convincing as you'd like, Howle's outrage at a startling confession by his new wife, and then regret at his actions, provides the long-awaited emotional kick at the end.

It seems only fair to warn you that On Chesil Beach isn't the cheeriest of romances, and if you have read the book then the screen version isn't quite as lyrical. Rather, it's a contemplative slow burner that lingers with you for days.


Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson


Dominic Cooke

Running Time:

109 minutes



M (Nudity & sex scenes)


A nicely crafted, moving, downbeat drama