On Chesil Beach (film)

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On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDominic Cooke
Produced by
Screenplay byIan McEwan
Based onOn Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan
Music byDan Jones
CinematographySean Bobbitt
Edited byNick Fenton
Distributed by
Release date
  • 7 September 2017 (2017-09-07) (TIFF)
  • 18 May 2018 (2018-05-18) (UK)
  • 18 May 2018 (2018-05-18) (US)
Running time
110 minutes
  • United Kingdom
Box office$3 million[1]

On Chesil Beach is a 2017 British drama film directed by Dominic Cooke (in his feature directorial debut) and written by Ian McEwan, who adapted his own 2007 Booker Prize-nominated novella of the same name. It stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle and tells the story of virgin newlyweds, Florence and Edward, and their first disastrous attempt at having sex. The initial experience and their differing responses to the failure have lifelong consequences for both.

The film had its world premiere in the Special Presentations section at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2017, and was released in the United States and United Kingdom in May 2018.[2][3]


In 1962, Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting first meet after graduating from their respective universities. He is a historian and rock-and-roll lover; she a classical violinist with her own quartet. They fall in love quickly, meet each other's families, and eventually decide to get married, despite their differences in background and social status.

Florence is secretly anxious about the wedding due to her fears about sex, but there is no one with whom she can discuss it. On Edward and Florence's honeymoon at Chesil Beach, their backgrounds and temperaments come to the fore: Edward's quickness to anger and occasional physical belligerence, and Florence's unspoken past relationship with her father, who dominated and possibly molested her. They are both inexperienced sexually, and their first attempt at sex goes badly wrong. Florence flees along the beach, and after being confronted by an angry Edward, explains that although she loves him very much and wants to be with him for life, she can only be a platonic wife. Edward angrily rejects the idea. The couple part ways, and their marriage is annulled.

Thirteen years later, in 1975, a young girl enters the record shop that Edward now runs. He realises that she must be Florence's daughter, and he painfully reminisces about his lost love. Much later, in 2007, Edward, still single, overhears on the radio that Florence's quartet - including her husband - will be giving a farewell concert after 50 years of professional success. He attends and sits near the front of the audience. When their eyes meet, Edward and Florence shed silent tears.




In 2010, Sam Mendes had signed on to direct the film with Focus Features developing. Carey Mulligan was in talks to star as Florence Ponting.[4] Shooting was delayed when Mendes' Skyfall went into production and Focus Features pulled out of development. In 2011, the film went back in to pre-production, this time with Mike Newell directing and Sam Mendes producing through his Neal Street Productions banner with StudioCanal and BBC Films. Later, production ceased after pre-production over-ran and the producers got cold feet.[5]

In February 2016, it was announced that Saoirse Ronan was to play Florence Ponting.[6][7] Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley produced the film under their Number 9 Films banner.[7] In May 2016, during the Cannes Film Festival, it was announced that BBC Films would co-produce the film.[8] In August 2016, Billy Howle joined the cast as the male lead.[9] In October 2016, it was announced that Thorsten Schumacher's new film and TV outfit Rocket Science had come on board to complete international sales.[10]


Principal photography began on 17 October 2016, on Chesil Beach, Dorset, England. Other filming locations included London, Oxford and Pinewood Studios in England.


Lionsgate acquired the distribution rights for the United Kingdom in October 2016.[11] On Chesil Beach had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2017.[12] Bleecker Street acquired the U.S. distribution rights in October 2017.[13]

On Chesil Beach was released in the UK on 18 May 2018.[14][2] Originally scheduled for theatrical release in the United States on 15 June 2018, the date was pushed up to 18 May 2018.[15][16]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 68% based on 134 reviews, and an average rating of 6.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "On Chesil Beach presents a well-acted and solidly crafted adaptation of a small yet resonant story with deceptively rich subtext."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18]

The Economist praised McEwan's screenwriting for having "deviated from the source material in effective ways".[19] Owen Gleiberman of Variety praised the cast and called the film a "romantic drama that gets so far into the mystique of its era that it takes you somewhere you’ve never been."[20] Anya Jaremko-Greenwold of FLOOD Magazine wrote that "while men might fail to recognize how intimidating the expectation of sex can be for women, it’s something McEwan’s novel (and the film, for which he wrote the screenplay) hinges upon with exquisite delicacy."[21]

Writing for IndieWire, Kate Erbland gave the film a grade of "C+," saying, "After a strong start, the film’s middle section sags into the most benign of observations about Edward and Florence and the elements that have pulled them together. For a film that is so consumed with the burning complications of first, early love, On Chesil Beach more resembles a wilted relationship, one that offers up no excitement about the future and little respect for the past."[22]


  1. ^ "On Chesil Beach". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. 2018. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Lou (18 May 2018). "Adapting Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach: 'My advice would be don't worry about having sex tonight'". British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  3. ^ Chuba, Kirsten (16 February 2018). "Bleecker Street Announces Release Dates, Including 'Colette,' 'Papillon,' 'On Chesil Beach'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  4. ^ White, James (3 June 2010). "Sam Mendes Going On Chesil Beach". Empire. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  5. ^ Connelly, Brendan (5 November 2011). "Mike Newell Takes Over On Chesil Beach, Shows Off His Miss Havisham". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  6. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (17 February 2016). "Saoirse Ronan to Star in 'On Chesil Beach'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b Jafaar, Ali (17 February 2016). "Saoirse Ronan Boards 'On Chesil Beach' For 'Carol' Producer Number 9 Films". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  8. ^ Jafaar, Ali (14 May 2016). "BBC Films Sets Morgan Matthews To Direct 'Gypsy Boy'; Boards 'On Chesil Beach' And 'Breathe' – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  9. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (22 August 2016). "Billy Howle Boards 'On Chesil Beach' For 'Carol' Producer Number 9 Films". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  10. ^ Lodderhose, Diane (12 October 2016). "Former Hanway Films Exec Thorsten Schumacher Launches Rocket Science". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  11. ^ Barraclough, Leo (31 October 2016). "Lionsgate Acquires U.K. Rights to 'Churchill', starring Brian Cox". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  12. ^ Pond, Steve (15 August 2017). "Aaron Sorkin, Brie Larson, Louis CK Movies Added to Toronto Film Festival Lineup". TheWrap. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  13. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (3 October 2017). "Bleecker Street Lands Toronto Title 'On Chesil Beach'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  14. ^ "On Chesil Beach". Launching Films. Film Distributors' Association. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  15. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (26 October 2017). "Bleecker Street Sets Release Dates For 'What They Had', 'Disobedience' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  16. ^ Hipes, Patrick (16 February 2018). "Bleecker Street Dates Its Big Sundance Buy 'Colette', 'Papillon' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  17. ^ "On Chesil Beach (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  18. ^ "On Chesil Beach Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  19. ^ N.E.G. (19 September 2017). "The temptations and pitfalls of adapting your own novel for the screen". The Economist. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  20. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (8 September 2017). "Toronto Film Review: 'On Chesil Beach'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  21. ^ Jaremko-Greenwold, Anya (31 May 2018). ""On Chesil Beach" and What Is Expected of Women". FLOOD Magazine. Anthemic Agency. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  22. ^ Erbland, Kate (7 September 2017). "'On Chesil Beach' Review: Ian McEwan Adaptation Stars Saoirse Ronan". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 10 September 2017.

External links[edit]