Saoirse Ronan is a bright spot of teal-turquoise in this first image from the upcoming drama On Chesil Beach. The dress is lovely, though if you’ve read the magnificent Ian McEwan novella on which the film is based (check out EW’s 2007 review here), then you know that Ronan and her costar (newcomer Billy Howle) are not having the time of their lives.
McEwan wrote the screenplay and first-timer Dominic Cooke (TV’s The Hollow Crown) directed this feature film adaptation, which is from two of the producers of Todd Haynes’ Carol, Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley. The story is set in 1962 and focuses tightly on the dreamy-eyed newlyweds Edward and Florence, who quickly mature into grown-ups with a shattering adult argument following an unfortunate attempt at consummation. The book’s remarkable opening line is: “They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.”
This production still (above), set on the pebble strewn location of the title, resembles the original jacket art of McEwan’s book:
But the image also offers a tantalizing glimpse at the film’s visual style. Gifted cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who proved his acumen with haunted period settings in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, again shows his preference for shooting actors at eye-level and from a respectful distance. (He also lensed Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe and Michael Winterbottom’s stunning Wonderland.)
Ronan, who was an Oscar nominee this time last year for Brooklyn, is not new to the McEwan literary canon. She received her first nomination as a 13-year-old for her supporting role in the 2007 screen version of the author’s best-seller Atonement. And as was obvious from her rich, complex performance in that film, the actress is completely in synch with McEwan’s ethos about childish yearning, consequential misunderstands, and profound regret — all elements which will play a crucial role in the new movie.
On Chesil Beach has no set release date or U.S. distributor but is expected to open later this year. Stay tuned to EW for more details.