On Chesil Beach (film)
|On Chesil Beach|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dominic Cooke|
|Screenplay by||Ian McEwan|
|Based on||On Chesil Beach|
by Ian McEwan
|Music by||Dan Jones|
|Edited by||Nick Fenton|
|Box office||$3 million|
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.
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.
- Saoirse Ronan as Florence Ponting
- Billy Howle as Edward Mayhew
- Emily Watson as Violet Ponting
- Anne-Marie Duff as Marjorie Mayhew
- Samuel West as Geoffrey Ponting
- Adrian Scarborough as Lionel Mayhew
- Bebe Cave as Ruth Ponting
- Anton Lesser as Reverend Woollett
- Mark Donald as Charles Morrell
- Tamara Lawrance as Molly
- Anna Burgess as Anne Mayhew
- Mia Burgess as Harriet Mayhew
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. 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.
In February 2016, it was announced that Saoirse Ronan was to play Florence Ponting. Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley produced the film under their Number 9 Films banner. In May 2016, during the Cannes Film Festival, it was announced that BBC Films would co-produce the film. In August 2016, Billy Howle joined the cast as the male lead. 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.
Lionsgate acquired the distribution rights for the United Kingdom in October 2016. On Chesil Beach had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2017. Bleecker Street acquired the U.S. distribution rights in October 2017.
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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The Economist praised McEwan's screenwriting for having "deviated from the source material in effective ways". 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." 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."
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."
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