Dir by: Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice)
Starring:Keira Knightly, James McAvoy
The Gist: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's (Keira Knightley) lover (James McAvoy) of a crime he did not commit. Based on the British romance novel by Ian McEwan. (IMDB) *Ed Note: Romance novel is used loosely here, not meaning the a-typical mills and boon style tome (Jen).
Atonement is not a rare creature of late, a movie adapted from a much loved novel written by award winning author Ian McEwan that was clearly going to create issues for any poor director brave enough to translate it to screen.
Where others have failed Joe Wright’s second directorial film has surpassed all the odds by creating a moving, emotional and accurate account of a novel that is so full of restrained passion, grandiose love, tension and over all loss that it left the audience in stunned silence.
Set in the 1930’s in the middle of a heat wave, the audience is led through the sweltering temperatures, serene landscapes, beautiful characters, and uncomfortable awareness that something so idyllic is about to come crashing down.
Keira Knightly, praised so highly for her first pairing with director Joe Wright in Pride and Prejudice, is simply revealing in this movie. Her character of Cecilia is the perfect picture of an upper-class lady; beautiful and confident until she is stripped down to vulnerability and heartache, realizing that she loves the very man she has grown up with but who has always been their housekeeper’s son. James McAvoy has now cemented himself as Britain’s new import to America (although he is actually Scottish), and captures the new found tension of falling in love and looking forward to the future before him only to have it all ripped away in one moment. The chemistry between these two actors is visible and the longing passion they invoke is heart stopping, causing a blush or two amongst the audience.
Saoirse Ronan, who plays Cecilia’s 13 year old sister Briony, causes Cecilia and Robbie’s separation and is placed in a difficult position with the audience. For the pain she causes I wanted to and did for a moment dislike her, but Saoirse for someone so young also had my understanding. Her character, although seemingly cold and childish, is in the end a child and sadly within her active imagination misunderstood everything she saw. Ronan was perfectly cast; she shines just as brightly as her co-stars in such an emotional and mature movie.
The first hour of the movie is all beauty and tension and then opens up into longing and heartache as the movie moves forward 4 years in the future. Briony now 18 (played by Romola Garai) is beginning to realize all the damage she has caused her sister and Robbie with her accusation and wants only to atone for her childish mistakes.
The novel ‘Atonement’ is all about the loss of innocence and the mistakes that we all make only to regret them after the damage has been caused. The movie was always going to be gifted with an amazing script that is accurately detailed from the novel, but in the hands of director Joe Wright, led by Knightly and McAvoy this is a movie that almost surpasses its written words. Bring on the Oscars for all involved!
Meg’s rating 4.5/5
*Ed Note: I agree 100%. One of the best movies I've seen well, ever. Congrats to all involved for a stellar product. I am definitely buying this on dvd!!! (Jen)