There was a time, in the early aughts, that the name “Saoirse Ronan” did not evoke immediate, gut-wrenching sobs. It seems impossible now, to be sure: Was there really a time before we regularly cried our way through Ronan’s quietly graceful, profoundly moving performances in various, semi-tragic period dramas? A time before this year’s Brooklyn, which nabbed Ronan an Oscar nom for her role as an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York? A time before Ronan was basically the only good thing in Peter Jackson’s totally overblown The Lovely Bones adaptation?
There was such a time, dear reader. In the early 2000s, the Saoirse Ronan we know today — the powerhouse Irish actress with the ability to make grown adults weep uncontrollably in public — was just a twinkle in our collective eye. Back then, Ronan was a young up-and-comer starring in an Irish TV series called The Clinic and a British movie called The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, which I will be seeking out and watching at my earliest convenience because I really must know what miracle befell Jonathan Toomey. But everything changed when Ronan was cast in Joe Wright’s 2007 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, playing 13-year-old Briony Tallis, who goes and f*cks up the lives of everyone around her just for the hell of it. Sure, Briony herself sucked mightily as a character, but Ronan’s performance was stunning and preternaturally subtle, making her the breakout star.
It’s more than appropriate, considering her origins, that for her next role, Ronan will come full circle and again star in a bleak McEwan adaptation. According to Variety, Ronan is set to star in On Chesil Beach, based on McEwan’s 2007 novel of the same name. Ronan will play Florence, a “young and talented violinist” in 1962 Blighty who “dreams of a career on a concert stage and the perfect life she will create with an earnest young history student.” The book and subsequent film will follow “the precise depiction of two young lovers” and “the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives.” It’s official: Depressing period dramas are quickly becoming Ronan’s bread and butter.
Said earnest young history student has yet to be cast, but the team behind the film bodes well for its quality: Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the team behind this year’s Oscar-nominated Carol, are producing, and Dominic Cooke, the man behind the Hollow Crown miniseries, will direct. On Chesil Beach will film in the fall, meaning you likely have at least a year to prepare yourself emotionally.