On Chesil Beach

Based on the 2007 novel of the same name written by critically acclaimed British author Ian McEwan who also wrote the novel that was adapted into the Academy Award-winning 2007 film Atonement, On Chesil Beach is a beautifully shot and acted British drama that explores a young couple’s romance and sexuality shortly following their marriage. Set on their wedding night in the summer of 1962 at their honeymoon hotel and the nearby spectacular Chesil Beach located on the southern coast of Dorset, England, the movie follows the love story of Florence, played by Academy Award-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan, and Edward, played by up-and-coming actor Billy Howle. Following a rather slow pace imitating their gradual romance over the years, the story is mostly told through a series of flashbacks to the pivotal moments in their courtship through the past several years. Like Florence, Edward is shown as a young accomplished student who studies at Oxford and has great ambitions in life. Despite overcoming several challenges while dating, including Edward’s mother’s grave mental health, their inexperience with physical intimacy as virgins in their early twenties poses a crucial problem on their honeymoon as they are about to consummate their marriage. They have drawn-out arguments over the course of the night as Florence tries to grapple with her awkward fear of sex even with her true love Edward who is eager for intimacy. As the characters have deeply philosophical dialogue about love and sex, the filmmaker uses evocative cinematography with sweeping shots of the famous beach to convey a tender yet heartbreaking story. Overall, I found it to be a particularly well-made film that felt like a typically British drama complete with outstanding emotional acting performances and a somber story with great heart.

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