British director Dominic Cooke delights the audience with a screenplay by Ian McEwan, the author of the homonymous novel. «On Chesil Beach» joins McEwan’s long list of adaptations, in which «Atonement» (2007) and ‘The Innocent’ (1993) also appear.
Young and innocent love. Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) have little more than twenty years and met in a demonstration against nuclear weapons in Cambridge. She is a girl of upper middle class, while he belongs to the working one. She is a violinist, he studied history. Both are idealists, innocent and yes, virgin. The wedding ceremony takes place during a summer day on 1962, but the real action starts at the wedding night in a hotel in Chesil Beach, where the lovers first intimate encounter will open a box of thunder, changing their destiny forever.
Dominic Cooke did not have an easy task ahead of him. Of all the novels of the prolific Ian McEwan that have been adapted to the cinema, it is very probable that ‚On Chesil Beach‘ was the most complex to adapt to the cinematographic language. However, the theatre and television director proves to be up to the challenge thanks to his clever mastery of the staging, reversing the expectations of the spectators and creating terribly awkward scenes from what should be a romantic honey-moon. On Chesil Beach is traditional in its structure of flashbacks and in its visual and sound bets (the soundtrack of Dan Jones is another of the great successes of the film), but at the same time walks through rugged territories that few romantic dramas have been daring to step in before.
The adaptation of the own McEwan rescues the most suggestive subject of its novel: the helplessness and ignorance which faced the youth of the England in the early 1960’s, when still the sexual revolution had not broken the established in British society. On the big screen the sensitivity and empathy that director, cast and script bring to the calvary of Florence and Edward until the climax finally explodes leads a feeling of desolation and frustration that, starting from the characters own personal journey, inevitably extends to the viewers.
Despite being only 23 years old, the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan again demonstrates why she is one of the best actresses of her generation, but the big surprise here is the unknown Billy Howle, a wise choice for a clumsy, noble and involuntarily charming character.