More than just a tediously drawn out melodrama, this is also unforgivably misogynous in its depiction of female sexuality. Ian McEwan wrote both the original short novel and screenplay and did a poor job both times in achieving – if he even tried – any understanding of the internal workings of a woman.
In this British “no-mance” set in the 1960s, we meet Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) on their way to their honeymoon on Chesil Beach. Their slow, awkward first day at the hotel is counterpointed with flashbacks telling the story of how they met and introducing us to their respective families. It’s an unremarkable story except for Edward’s “brain-damaged” mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and Florence’s irascible father (Samuel West). A clumsy attempt to consummate the marriage leads to the disclosure by Florence that she is pretty much asexual, or as Edward indelicately puts it – frigid. During the flashbacks there have been hints that Florence’s father may have molested her but this is never fully explored. The plot then accelerates forward to a contrived scene in the present designed to milk sentiment.
The acting is good, the cinematography and sets are authentic and attractive, but McEwan didn’t pack the plot well enough for the journey he takes us on.
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich