Saoirse Ronan is set for another major screen event when she stars in On Chesil Beach, based on the 2007 book by Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan to be released May 18th.
Because the plot involves a disastrous first lovemaking scene which sends a loving relationship into a tailspin, Ronan discussed her own views on love, sex and relationships in an interview with The London Times.
The plot is a simple one. In July 1962, Edward Mayhew, and Florence Ponting are spending their honeymoon in a small hotel on the Dorset seashore, at Chesil Beach. The two are very much in love despite being from drastically different backgrounds.
During the course of an evening, both happily think about their future together. Edward is keen to consummate the marriage while Florence, likely having been sexually abused by her father, is terrified of sex and the very thought of it continues to repulse her.
When the couple are finally about to have sex, Edward becomes over excited and ejaculates before the intercourse can begin. Disgusted, Florence storms out. When Edward follows, the couple get into an argument where Florence admits she never wants sex and suggests he sleep with other women to fulfil his sexual desires. He becomes incensed at her suggestion.
The film tries to explore intimacy without overemphasizing the sexual angle.Movies and media portray sex as incredible always and easily enjoyed but there is a lot more to intimacy Ronan says.
“I think that’s still an issue now for people, of any age, if you’re in a relationship. Even if you are in a sexual relationship, there’s these milestones that have to happen and there’s different points you have to reach at a certain time, and I think there’s just a massive amount of pressure to be a certain thing in a relationship — and that hasn’t changed.”
It is not the first time Ronan has played a virginal character. In Lady Bird, set in 2002, her character Christine/Lady Bird’s first sex is a painful experience. She told The Times her character “Christine went into it kind of thinking, ‘This has to be perfect and it’s got to be epic the first time.’ Well, yes, it should be with someone that you really care about, but she had all these fixed notions of what your first time is, when, really, you can have all the discussions in the world about what sex is like, but until you do it yourself, you really can’t appreciate how big a moment it is. Definitely for a girl, it’s huge. It just shows that those sorts of preconceived notions have not lifted at all.”
In On Chesil Beach she says the way the book treats the topic not in a pornographic way but as a human story being told made it much easier for her “I found it very helpful. I wouldn’t say I necessarily found it crucial. I think I could understand why somebody would have a fear of something that they don’t understand anyway.”
The novel and the movie diverge at one critical point. “In the novel it was always part of the mystery that she literally fades from his life. She walks off the page, but we couldn’t have her walk off the screen,” says McEwan, looking at Ronan.
As to how she remembers the climactic scene on a windswept beach in Dorset in Britain Ronan says it was “Bloody cold,”And I got tonsillitis afterwards, but the atmosphere became such a big part of that scene. It was so windy, especially for me. The wind was in my face for most of it, and you’re battling against that while trying to remain delicate and open and vulnerable.”