Saoirse Ronan was lamenting the timing of the sexual revolution. ‘If only it had happened a few years later,’ she said with a sigh. The actress was discussing the newlyweds that she and Billy Howle play in Dominic Cooke’s brilliantly observed film of Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach, using a screenplay by the author. ‘They’re not able to consummate their marriage,’ Ronan said.
‘It’s set right on the cusp of the sexual revolution; but Florence and Edward, who we play, haven’t been able to talk freely about sex. And they haven’t understood why they’ve had this reaction.’ Cooke told me that McEwan had long wanted Ronan to be in the film after she was in the screen version of another of his novels, Atonement, she played the 13-year-old sister of Keira Knightley’s character. ‘I saw Saoirse in Brooklyn and thought she was extraordinary,’ Cooke added. ‘You can see right into her; and she’s emotionally open. ‘Turns out she had always wanted to do Chesil Beach, but wanted to wait until she was old enough.’
The director has captured a real sensitivity between the now 23-year-old Ronan and Howle, and has done detailed, insightful work with Emily Watson, Samuel West, Adrian Scarborough and Anne-Marie Duff, who play the two sets of parents.
This version has been edited from the original article, which you can find here