On Chesil Beach

A different time. A hidden secret.
A different time. A hidden secret.


D: Dominic Cooke

Lionsgate/Bleeker Street/BBC (Elizabeth Karlsen & Stephen Woolley)

UK 2017 [released 2018]

110 mins


W: Ian McEwan [based on his novel]

DP: Sean Bobbitt

Ed: Nick Fenton

Mus: Dan Jones

Saoirse Ronan (Florence Ponting), Billy Howle (Edward Mayhew), Emily Watson (Violet Ponting), Anne-Marie Duff (Marjorie Mayhew), Samuel West (Geoffrey Ponting)

Ian McEwan adapts his own Booker Prize nominated novel for this romantic drama set mostly against the backdrop of the English seaside during the sexually-repressive 1960's.

The film opens with Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as newlyweds on their honeymoon at the titular beach, where she reminisces on their relationship, rushing into a marriage despite differences in their background and social statuses.  The differences between them become even more apparent on their wedding night, driving a wedge between them which affects their lives in very different way.

The narrative adopts a non-linear style which feels a lot choppier than it has to be, and despite good acting performances, it's very difficult to engage with the plot until the final act draws the story together.

I've not read the book, but it's been recommended to me, and I can only hope that it's a better read than it is a watch. Ian McEwan may be a talented author, and the love and loss angle had been done particularly well when his novel Atonement was adapted for the screen in 2007. Unfortunately, the story here feels stretched out unnecessarily, and perhaps it would have worked better as a 1 hour television story or mini series rather than a 110 minute movie. I also have to point out that the ageing makeup at the end of the movie may well be the worst I've ever seen on film. 


On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach