Movie Review: On Chesil Beach


Let’s talk about sex, baby. “On Chesil Beach” for a movie about sex has very little of it happening on screen so don’t get too excited. This lyrical adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel (check out my review of his novel “Sweet Tooth” here) with the screenplay by the author has just debuted on South African screens. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a McEwan fan, but far from brilliant.

Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are in love but come from very different backgrounds. They can talk for hours, have fun together and his family loves her. But are they truly a match? They’ve never had sex or know much about it, which will make their wedding night truly unforgettable and not in the right way.
The narrative in the movie splits between the said wedding night and how the relationship had progressed leading to it. Sounds promising? Perhaps but something went wrong. Maybe it’s just that two hours for an adaptation of a very short novel (or should I say a novella? The Booker Prize Committee seemed confused too!) was just too much screen time, which is why it resulted in lengthy story telling?

The movie certainly addresses a number of interesting issues such as sexual (and general) compatibility, the importance of sex in a relationship, sexual frustration of well-behaved people. I can’t complain about the acting either. The performances by both actors are, in fact, very strong. Seeing that their relation is the focal point of the story, it adds a lot to the movie. You may remember Saoirse Ronan as a young girl from another adaptation of a McEwan novel, “Atonement”. Already there she was a remarkable actress and she doesn’t disappoint in “On Chesil Beach”. She’s detached, calm and perhaps slightly deprived of emotions, just like I imagined Florence when reading the book. Billy Howle as Edward is quite a straightforward guy, at the same time fierce and awkward. Other actors are somewhat peripheral but they do a good job too. I also really appreciate the music and beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately, it was just all not enough to keep my attention through the movie. I really like deep, well-constructed characters but this movie completely forgets that there needs to be some action. Watching the film felt a little bit like watching a couple’s therapy session.

To sum up, “On Chesil Beach” is an okay plus watch. I can see and appreciate what the director and the scriptwriter tried to do there but I’m not buying it as a product. Now to finish off I’ll share with you an amusing anecdote about the writing of the novel: Apparently, Ian McEwan has admitted to taking a few stones from Chesil Beach in a radio interview. He kept them at his desk when writing. This confession caused protests by Mother Nature lovers as that was apparently illegal, which the author hadn’t know about. He ended up paying a fine of 2000 pounds. Go figure, the Brits!



  1. Did not like this movie. The characters creeped me out. It was just a super bleak and super sad story. First times are awkward. I don’t understand why people expect them to bet mind-blowing. Come on, it takes practice and experience to hit the Big O everytime like Samantha in SATC. And god forbid, you have two virgins together. Oh my, it was a recipe for disaster if you ask me. But it’s not like they weren’t young. They loved each other so they could have worked on things. They would have probably laughed about it somewhere down the line Sex is important but good sex doesn’t just happen overnight In (other) movies perhaps.

    Also, on another note that’s why I don’t believe this myth that WISOs (Women-Interested-in-Sex-Only) really get good sex….Having actually spoken to a self-confessed WISO once, they confessed that they’d never experienced the Big O. I have to admit I felt a bit smug being the oh so boring relationship knowing that despite the relatively modest number of notches on my bedpost, I’d most likely experienced a better standard of bedroom.

    Anyway, the story was sad, hopeless and depressing. Certainly, don’t send any 30-something virgins to see it. But perhaps there is a good lesson to be learnt….1) It’s probably not the best idea in the world to marry the first person who’ll listen to your good news/gives you a second look and 2) waiting for the wedding night to do test the goods is just setting yourself up for disappointment. Live in sin. Try the karma sutra and find out what works for you. God will forgive you (who knows the dirty perve is probably busy watching the show 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, don’t forget they dated before the sexual revolution. Doesn’t mean no one had sex before marriage but a lot of people were “keeping themselves for the right one”. As you say, first times are awkward. Now, imagine having sex for the first time when you’ve never seen any sex on TV, you didn’t have girlfriends giggling about it because everyone around you is a virgin too and those who aren’t (your mom, grandma and other female relatives) just close their eyes thinking about England…. All her knowledge about sex was from something similar to a biology book. You were meant to do this thing to make babies. That’s all you knew. I actually liked that it became such a big thing because people do make sex seem like it’s who knows what even these days. When expectations are so high, shit happens. Besides, nothing really is a big thing if you think about it logically but then we have a world families disowning children for marrying outside of the community and all other human dramas, which seem like they could be solved by a heart-to-heart.

      You were also lucky, I think and so was I in my first relationship. A lot of women have terrible sex with their first partner and just keep having it because they marry them. Also, I actually realised I know a different WISO (also daddy issues and commitment phoebe) and she had two long relationships before she decided that she wants to be FREE and be more casual about guys. Some people are less shy than other and if they know what they want (like someone sticking their foot in their mouth, just an example!) they just ask for it.

      Hahaha. Well, yes, a 30-something virgin would probably never allow anyone to pop her cherry after that. And yes, marrying the first person on your way is a bad idea and so is making too much out of sex. It’s biological, it’s natural, it’s fun. Enjoy it!


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