By Joe McGovern
Updated August 22, 2016 at 11:59 PM EDT
Credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
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Saoirse Ronan has finally nabbed a husband.

Back in February, the Brooklyn actress was announced to star in the upcoming movie version of Ian McEwan’s heartbreaking 2007 novella On Chesil Beach. Nine years ago Ronan earned an Oscar-nomination for another McEwan adaptation, Atonement, in which she played one of literature’s most complex, pernicious 13-year-old girls. She scored a second Oscar nod last year for her leading role as an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn.

And now with cameras about to start rolling, Number 9 Films (Carol) have announced (via Deadline) that movie newcomer Billy Howle will join Ronan as the male lead in On Chesil Beach.

Howle will play Edward Mayhew, a young man in 1960s England who marries his sweetheart Florence (Ronan), only to see their relationship explode in a tumultuous argument on their wedding night. The novella’s opening line sets its beautifully direct tone: ”They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.”

In EW’s grade A review of the book in 2007, critic Jennifer Reese wrote, “To reveal what lies in store would lessen the pleasure of reading this small masterpiece, though it’s hard to imagine that anything could spoil it.”

Though Howle has so far never appeared in a feature film, his resume includes the British television show Glue, plus a recent acclaimed stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, which performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And he has completed work in two movies still awaiting release dates: The Sense of an Ending, with Emily Mortimer, Charlotte Rampling, and another star on the rise, Joe Alwyn) and The Seagull, based on the Anton Chekhov play, headlined by Annette Bening. Howle will costar as Bening’s son Konstantin, who is in love with Nina — played, interestingly enough, by Saoirse Ronan.

British theater and TV director Dominic Cooke will be making his film directorial debut with On Chesil Beach, from McEwan’s own screenplay. The film is due to be released in 2017.

Earlier this year, Howle was one of the faces (along with Logan Lerman and Matthew Beard) for Prada’s Spring/Summer Menswear campaign. You can check out a brief advertisement featuring the actor, below.

On Chesil Beach

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  • Dominic Cooke