I am fond of love on the beach movies; they’re always a bit of fun. I’ve seen dozens, and among my favorites are “The Endless Summer,” “The Sandpiper,” “Summer of ’42,” and ” A Summer Place.”

In my day, movies set on a beach always featured Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Even when they didn’t, it was a couple who looked like Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.

Oh, I almost forgot. The beach movie du jour in town this week is Dominic Cooke’s “On Chesil Beach,” a beach movie sans any of the above.

Actually, it’s a very British beach movie with the ubiquitous — permanent ingénue — but forever lovely Saoirse Ronan, and the permanently tousled Billy Howle (“Dunkirk”). Both are good actors.

“On Chisel Beach” is a light and fluffy thing, soft, sweet, charming, with tunes from our fabulous Summer of Love … until is isn’t.

We’re in the very British l\’60s, with Chuck Berry in the background.

We come upon Florence Ponting (Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Howle) who have just married and stuck here in a musty, little room on the second floor of a honeymoon hotel, overlooking a permanently glowering English seascape and pebbled beach, not made for bare feet and sand castles, and not a Troy in sight.

Director Cooke and writer Ian McEwan doing his own novel, avoid claustrophobic panic by interlacing the hotel scenes with multiple flashbacks, beset with clues to the fated couple’s problem.

We see that Florence, a gifted violinist and music teacher, comes from a bit of money, with a mother (Emily Watson) who knows Iris Murdoch, and an overbearing, pompous father (Samuel West) who cheats at tennis.

Edward’s dad (Adrian Scarborough) is a tweedy, lovable teacher, and his mum a brilliant artist, who tends to run around naked from time to time due to brain damage, the result of being smashed by an open train door, a scene we get to watch; not a good opening for a beach movie.

Okay, enough. It’s time to scrape up a bit of respect for this marshmallow. There’s lots of good acting here, from the entire cast.

Novelist McEwan is a serious man, but it appears that he should have given another screen writer a chance at interpreting his book. I offer Mike Leigh or Danny Boyle.

Scene: The two mint fresh virgins begin the wedding night with what appears to be an early bird New England boiled dinner.

There are long minutes of chat and sound of silverware scratching the plates.

It’s like we’re watching two high school kids in a school play, trying to remember their lines, and hoping their parents aren’t there.

The sipping and chewing here is what will have to pass for foreplay, because Edward is eager to hit the sheets.

When it finally comes to “that” moment, things go wrong.

Florence seems if not eager, at least agreeable to proceed … until she isn’t.

Zippers and buttons won’t cooperate, so fully clothed, the couple drop to the bed.

At the moment of launching, Edward is gripped by a spasm of, hold on, clutch your pearls, premature ejaculation. Florence is horrified, scrubs her privates with the pillow, and runs screaming from the room down the beach to sit on (metaphor alert) a piece of shipwreck.

Here, finally, is where the truth rears its ugly head. It seems that it wasn’t his misfire that horrified her. It’s worse.

Florence bares all, and confesses that she loathes sharing bodily fluid, that she truly loves Edward and wants to be his wife forever, but without the sex part, if it’s okay with him. Do you think?

She makes it worse by passively relating a story about two homosexuals who eschewed sex, and lived happily ever after like brothers, then even offering her lover a free pass to gambol about in the market place.

Spoiler alert: Edward and Florence, not having consummated the marriage, make other plans. The book, I’m told, has an entirely different ending. So why did Ian do this to his perfectly good novel? Money?

Saoirse Ronan is a pleasant Florence, and sweetly stoic, but that wears thin after the first reel. Howle has more juice about him and would have, with a little therapy, made her a fun hubby.

It all comes to ruin with a hokey finale that I’ve been assured, is not in the book. See for yourself.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.