In July 1962, Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle), a graduate student of history, and Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan), a violinist of a string quartet, have just been married and 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 reflect upon their upbringing and the prospect of their futures. Edward is sexually motivated and, though intelligent, has a taste for rash behavior. Florence is bound by the social code of another era and, perhaps having been sexually abused by her father, is terrified of sexual intimacy. Florence tries to mentally prepare herself for the inevitable consummation, but the thought of it continues to repulse her.