This Friday from the works of Ian McEwan, director Dominic Cooke and Bleeker Street is a story of young awkwardness ON CHESIL BEACH.
It is 1962 and Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) is a young violinist in a string quartet and a strong will. Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) is an awkward young man living in a home with understanding father Lionel (Adrian Scarborough), two sisters and mother Marjorie (Anne-Marie Duff) who has suffered from an accident.
Thrilled that he has received high marks in school but no one to tell about it, Edward wandered into town. There he meets Florence and is taken immediately with her and they quickly become a couple. Always together, talking and sharing both the families see where the relationship is heading.
On their honeymoon, there is still an awkwardness that Edward tries to help Florence through. When it all becomes too much for Florence, the couple end up on the beach and a secret is revealed that could change the course of their dreams forever.
Words can sometimes haunt us forever.
Ronan as Florence has once again given us a strong, memorable and stellar performance. I have longed believed there isn’t a role that this young actress couldn’t capture and ON CHESIL BEACH proves it. There is such a depth to this young character and levels of Florence trying to keep herself together and, at any moment, the wire could suddenly snap. It is Ronan that keeps control of that wire and does so brilliantly.
Howle as Edward is a young man who finds in Florence one thing in his life that makes sense. He is moved by her and, in a sense, believes she is everything he needs. Willing to work for her father to be a providing husband, even his own father Lionel believes Florence is good for him. Howle has an innocence about him and that wraps deeply into the heart of this character.
Scarborough as Lionel is a man who sees what the accident has done to his wife and is amazed when Florence brings such change in her. Duff as Marjorie is living the best life she can since the accident. Watson as Florence’s mother Violet constantly tests the young girl will as only this fine actress can do.
Other cast include Samuel West as Geoffrey Ponting, Bebe Cave as Ruth Ponting, Bronte Carmichael as Chloe, and Jonjo O’Neill as Phil.
ON CHESIL BEACH is a stunning look at an innocent time where secrets have no way out and truths don’t fit it. Both of these young people have issues that are so deeply ingrained in who they are, it was inevitable that something would come to the surface.
It is in their reactions that the stories are truly told, yet each does not see the answers in the other. Instead, anger and frustration take over and in flash one decision in life can be devastating. That is what is so heartbreaking about this story for me, that even when faced the choice once again, it is decision that can either right things or stay on the path of nothing.
Ronan and Howle are heartbreaking to watch and artfully beautiful at the same time. Experiencing their characters struggle to find a way out of their pain is worth every moment on screen. Well done, absolutely well done.
The novella On Chesil Beach by British writer Ian McEwan has been translated into several languages and was nominated in 2007 for the Booker Prize.
In the end – life can still change when you do nothing.