On Chesil Beach | Sunday Observer

On Chesil Beach

The film On Chesil Beach is based on Ian McEwan’s Booker nominated, best-selling novella of the same name. It stars Saoirse Ronan as Florence Ponting, Billy Howle as Edward Mayhew and Mark Donald as Charles Morrell in the main roles.

The film begins in England in the early 1960’s on Florence and Edward’s wedding day and their trip to Chesil Beach in Dorset. It revolves around the courtship between Florence and Edward. The film moves back and forth in time through both Florence and Edwards’s memories of their courtship which is depicted in the film through flashbacks.

It is evident from the beginning that Edward is the wrong man for Florence and that they are not compatible. Edward is coarse, rough and athletic and lacks understanding which is crucial to the relationship. Florence on the other hand is gentle, refined, delicate and sensitive. Both Florence and Edward come from unhappy homes. Florence is a victim of child sexual abuse and from a dysfunctional family which causes her to be frigid and Edward’s mother was brain damaged in an accident at a train station which results in a miserable family life. There is a hidden rage inside Edward which manifests itself in sudden outbursts of violence.

Florence is specialised in classical music and is an accomplished violinist who has graduated with a Degree in Music from the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London and she forms a quartet with her classmates. Music provides a form of therapy for Florence, but at the same time music also brings back traumatic memories of molestation and abuse as depicted in the scene where Florence silently turns the pages of sheets of music of a pianist.

The cellist of the quartet, Charles Morrell understands Florence and is interested in her and keeps asking her out but she pushes him away. Charles is intelligent, educated and understanding which is what Florence needs in a partner.

But Florence makes a foolish decision to marry Edward who is the wrong man for her.

On their wedding night, Florence finds Edward’s advances very disgusting and repulsive which is not at all surprising and she runs away from him and goes to the beach because she needs to be left alone. Edward follows Florence to the beach and verbally abuses her for being frigid, which once again illuminates the fact that he is the wrong man for her and that they are not compatible. Florence and Edward’s marriage is annulled because of non-consummation. Fortunately for Florence, she later gets married to Charles with whom she has three children.

The screenplay is beautifully written by Ian McEwan and Saoirse Ronan who speaks beautiful English provides a brilliant portrayal of Florence. Edward Mayhew and Mark Donald also give good performances.