In 1962, newly-wedded Edward and Florence "Flo" Mayhew have started their honeymoon near idyllic Chesil Beach in Dorset. Edward is a graduate student planning to write history books. Flo is a string quartet violinist. While at their hotel, they begin to recall their courtship and the events, including societal pressures and expectations, that brought them together. Flo admits to Edward that she has problems with intimacy and fears being intimate with him. When an attempt to consummate their marriage fails, Flo runs from Edward to the beach in fear and disgust. At the beach, where he joins her, Flo admits to Edward that she might never be able to fulfill her wifely duties. The choices facing them both at this point shapes the rest of their lives.