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Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan
Running Time: 123 minutes
'Atonement' follows 3 main characters from the comfort of their elaborate family home in the 1930s, through to the horrors of WW2. Cecilia (Keira Knightley) - the older sister in a wealthy English family, involved romantically with Robbie, Briony (Saoirse Ronan at 13, Romola Garai at 18, Vanessa Redgrave at 77) only 13, and very confused about her feelings, and the difference between reality and make-believe, and Robbie (James McAvoy), a servant, who seems to be in love with Cecilia. After an incident, Briony makes a decision that will change the course of all the characters lives, and because of this Robbie is sent away from Cecilia to prison. The rest of the film is spent exploring the three characters, as Briony attempts to atone what she's done.
All the acting performances in this film were very strong, but none more than excellent newcomer Saoirse Ronan, who was just 12 when cast in this film. She plays the part of Briony with curiosity and believability, but with her eyes she shows us a much deeper character with more layers to her, and successfully shows many emotions in a most subtle manner. The older Briony's were good as well, but neither surpassed Saoirse Ronan, the most watchable character on screen
I personally found the first hour of the film (which is mostly set in a beautiful country house in England) a lot more entertaining and watchable than the second (which is set more on the backdrop of WW2). This is in part due to the fact that nearly all of Ronan's scenes are in the first half.
The script is good, very typical of this sort of film - nothing quirky, but still very enjoyable, and natural. Dario Marianelli's beautiful score also deserves special mention.
The film is rated '15', most likely because there are a few scenes of a 'sexual nature' though nothing is really shown, there is some violence, including war violence, and the word 'cunt' is shown on screen often, though never spoken. I would say that although some of it may seem inappropriate, it would be a good film for anyone over 12 to watch, especially because of Briony's character.
Overall this is a stunning drama, with a really poignant ending, and a lot of thought put into the characters, especially Briony.
Film only review
Charting the story of a young man who is accused of a brutal sexual assault in the 1930's, and told through the eyes of his lover's sister, Atonement is a well acted drama that shows the perils of jealousy and the need to make right an unspeakable wrong.
Robbie Turner is about to head off to medical school, funded by his caretaker mother's employers. Having lived on their land most of his life, Robbie is considered one of their own, or so it initially seems. Behind the scene's, he is in love with elder daughter Cecelia, much to the dismay of younger daughter Briony. When Briony witnesses the aftermath of her cousin being sexually assaulted, she presents to her parents an offensive letter, written in jest, that implicates Robbie in the assault.
Three years later, Robbie is now out of prison, on the proviso that he fights in the second world war. Cecelia, who knows of her sister's act, has now detached herself from her family, and awaits Robbie's return. However, the most devastating effect is on Briony, who longs for her sister's forgiveness and wants to atone for the lie that ruined Robbie's life.
Atonement is a beautifully made film, directed by Joe Wright, who also directed Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice. It captures it's period perfectly, placing the mid-film action centrally on a beach in France, where the young men wait to go home after battle. It also captures the essence of the class system that existed at that time in Britain without overstating it.
Keira Knightley is an actress that baffles me. I dont think she is deserving of the credit heaped upon her. In fact, Atonement is one of the few films I've seen her in where I found her performance acceptable. Putting on a posh accent and looking upper crust in a corset doesn't neccessarily make for a good performance, and if this girl is capable of an Oscar winning performance, I've yet to see it.
James McAvoy, on the other hand, is spellbinding in the role of Robbie, looking vulnerable and innocent early on in the film, and then capturing the grave intensity required to play a man who has witnessed the brutal effects of war. A scene where Robbie discovers a group of young women in abandoned woodlands sums up his seemless performance perfectly.
The character of Briony is possibly the most interesting of the three though. Showing her to be a vindictive and jealous young woman who finds redemption in her own remorse, and later giving something unique back to the people she has wronged. Briony is played by three actresses, and all three convincingly potray her without the audience feeling they are being cheated by replacement actresses. In fact, watching the film I didn't know that Briony, aged 13 (played by Saoirse Ronan) was different from Briony, aged 18 (now played by Romola Garai).
Whilst the film was slow to start, and possibly over-rated, it was an enjoyable watch. I just wished for more interaction between the three main characters, who rarely seemed to be onscreen together after the first act was over. Whilst its nice that the film also shows restraint, I think it required a few more emotional exchanges. I should also mention that Brenda Blethyn, a wonderful British actress, is given a woefully low amount of screen time, and her character could have provided an excellent link between the three.
This is a great film, offering great actors and a good storyline which really sucks you in to the life of the characters prior to the war. It shows the sadness that war can bring alongside the reality that promises made before the war may not have been followed after.
It gives a dark edge - showing how the lie of a child can affect many people's lives and their own life as an adult. You can really warm to all the characters, although some more than others as they expose their selfish, spoilt sides.
There is also a clear cut sense of justice to the book, as the liar, or protagonist of the novel, seeks redemption as she is punished at the end.
One of the downsides is that the film is a bit disjointed - sometimes it is hard to follow and you find yourself rewinding or trying to remember what happened earlier in the film, but it is much better than the book which I found even more confusing!
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 58 minutes
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
PRODUCER (main): Tim Bevan
SCREENPLAY: Christopher Hampton, adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan
Briony Tallis (at age 13) - Saoirse Ronan
Briony Tallis (at age 18) - Romola Garai
Briony Tallis (as elderly lady) - Vanessa Redgrave
Robbie Turner - James McAvoy
Cecilia Tallis - Keira Knightley
About six or so years ago, I unsuccessfully tried to read Ian McEwan's novel, Atonement. Despite several attempts, I could never get past the first three chapters, largely due to me finding the plot vague and confusing. I just couldn't hook into the book at all, and would find my attention wandering away from what I was trying to read.
After having studied a few online reviews of the movie Atonement, I took the plunge and treated myself to the DVD....not quite knowing what to expect, but hoping it may clear my confusion about the novel and hopefully make it easier to read.
The film begins in the summer of 1935 at the home of the very wealthy Tallis family. 13-year-old Briony Tallis is a budding writer, who begins to notice that Robbie Turner (one of the housekeeper's sons) is paying a lot of attention to Cecilia, her older sister.
In a very teenage sort of way, Briony is jealous of the admiration Robbie shows Cecilia, and on the evening of a large family party at the house, she twice grasps the opportunity to maybe not exact revenge exactly, but to throw a spanner in the works of the liaisons she is witnessing between Robbie and her sister. As a result of Briony's ill-appropriated actions, Robbie is arrested and subsequently sent to prison for two years.
The film then jumps forward in time. Robbie, after his release from prison, is in France, serving as a soldier in World War II....he is still very much in love with Cecilia who he hasn't seen since the fateful night of his arrest, and she is constantly on his mind. Cecilia and the now 18-year-old Briony have taken on positions as war effort nurses at two separate London hospitals; the sisters having ceased all contact with one another due to Briony's behaviour back in 1935 on the night of the family party.
Leading separate and disconnected (from one another) lives, the two sisters have individual crosses to bear; Cecilia is still just as much in love with Robbie as he is with her, and Briony has matured enough to the point whereby she realises the seriousness of herself being the one who caused the parting of the ways between Cecilia and Robbie. With Cecilia constantly on his mind, Robbie and two soldier colleagues make their way, amidst danger and having to witness the horrors of war, through the battlefields of France towards Dunkirk beach where they had heard boats would be ready to take them back to England.
That's all I'm going to say about the plot of Atonement, the movie.
As I clicked the play button and began to watch the opening titles of the film, I was a little wary that I'd find it just as confusing as the book, but I forced myself to pay attention and see it through, as I'd heard and read so many good things about Atonement as a movie.
During the first 20 or so minutes of the film, I experienced similar to what I had done when trying to read the book - I was struggling to stay focused on the screen and what was happening in the story - but I continued forcing myself to persist, and can now say that I'm very glad I didn't just click "stop" and cast the video aside ready to be donated to a charity shop.
Sadly, there was one thing I found particularly annoying, especially near the beginning of the film, and that was the noise of tapping typewriter keys incorporated into the musical score....but the storyline really took off for me and I began to get naturally rather than forcefully absorbed, from the point where Robbie was carted off in a police car onwards. The rather confusing beginning seemed to fall into place after that, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen.
It is true, especially during the latter part of the film, that it does keep jumping backwards and forwards in time, but I didn't find it difficult to follow, and as it came to its close, I began to understand the purpose of the backtracking. I can't really say why though, without giving away the ending.
I feel that each of the main actors played their part with a professional brilliance, but from me, the acting accolade gets handed to James McAvoy for his superb characterisation of the betrayed and lovelorn Robbie. I feel James injected what I can only describe as a sensitive passion tinged with an almost urgent poignancy into the part. I was also very impressed with Vanessa Redgrave's portrayal of the slightly vague, gently-spoken, elderly Bryony, when the storyline of the film jumped forward up to date.
The film certainly contains one big surprise, which took me aback somewhat....making me feel rather sad....and it was that surprise which I feel is the absolute backbone of the story. Whilst I was viewing Atonement, though I was being drawn into it more and more as it progressed, it wasn't until the next day I realised how greatly I'd been affected. The film was the very first thing which was on my mind when I woke up the next morning, and it has been hovering around the edges of my awareness ever since. I can be sitting totally absorbed in my day's activities, and suddenly various scenes - especially those of Robbie as a soldier in France making his way to Dunkirk, plus the love scenes between himself and Cecilia - will spring into my mind and swamp all of my other thoughts, not to mention stirring up my usually under lock & key emotions.
I suppose at root, Atonement is a tale of an immature young girl deliberately sabotaging something potentially beautiful, and living to regret her actions. There seems to be a slight difference of opinion running through various reviews I've read on the film as to the reasons why Bryony ruined Cecilia's and Robbie's chances of happiness. Some people feel that Bryony was misunderstanding a couple of things she'd seen, and out of a fear which caused her to make some wrong assumptions, accused Robbie of something he hadn't done. Other people feel that Bryony's actions were purely out of childish jealousy in that she wanted Robbie for herself - she does throw herself at him somewhat once she's seen it's her sister he's interested in - and what she did was her way of punishing him for choosing Cecilia above her. I personally fall into the latter of those two interpretations in that I believe Bryony was very resentful of Robbie not responding to her overtures towards him; therefore, she felt she had to punish him....little realising the serious implications her actions would ultimately have.
I have the feeling that I need to watch Atonement again, as though I don't think I've missed any of the points contained within, I'm certain that it's something which needs to be viewed a few times in order to completely absorb the whole essence of the film, as I sense each time I watch it in future, I'll see the story from a different angle. The way in which Atonement as a movie has hooked into my brain, tells me that there are several as yet undetected (by me) undercurrents present needing to be examined and mulled over. After just one viewing, this powerful film has taken me to parts deep inside of myself that just for the moment, even I am at a loss to understand.
In summary, I would say that Atonement is a beautifully crafted, sensitive, skilfully acted work of art that is definitely a cut above your average love story....a tale of passion, revenge and regret. Even as I type, this film is leaping up the ladder of my all-time favourites, and I could go as far as to say it may eventually make my all-time top five movies. My recent viewing of Atonement has also made me want to have another attempt at reading the book, as the film has cleared up the confusion for me.
The only things I would alter, would be to remove the typing noises from the musical score, and for some of the conversation between the actors to be a little more audible early on in the film. Other than that, Atonement for me is a highly polished and unusual love story that is very thought-provoking and haunting. It certainly has ruffled my sensitivities in a curious, lingering way.....despite the couple of minor flaws I have mentioned above, it gets the full whack of stars from me.
Atonement was nominated for (and received) very many awards around the world.
For anyone wishing to purchase the movie Atonement on its own (e.g. not 'twinned' with any other film), it is currently available on Amazon as follows:-
Blue-ray = £12.99 (free delivery)
DVD from £1.42 to £16.82 : new (add £1.24 delivery charge)
DVD from £0.18 to £5.90 : used (add £1.24 delivery charge)
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I read the book Atonement by Ian McEwan years ago on holiday and thought it was a great book, so it was with much trepidation that I went to see the film. I often find that it you have loved a book the film never quite lives up to it, fortunately it had been a bit of time between reading and viewing so it wasn't quite so fresh in my mind.
Atonement stars Keira Knightly and James McAvoy as the two main characters Cecilia and Robbie. Set originally in the warm summer of 1935 Cecilia is part of the Tallis family and Robbie is the housekeeper's son (although he had been put through his education and university by the Tallis'). Briony, Cecilia's thirteen year old sister, witnesses Cecilia stripping off and plunging into the fountain in the garden with Robbie watching. Their subsequent coming together and the unfolding drama caused by Briony has life changing effects on all of them and is something that Briony will have to live with for the rest of her life.
I really don't want to give any of the plot away as it would completely spoil the film. Atonement is a spectacular movie full of drama, love, war, and intrigue. The actors are all very well cast (sometimes I find Keira Knightly can be a tad annoying but she was excellent in this part) and show the fragility of life, love and emotions - a rare feat indeed in modern day movies. I found the film spellbinding I was completely caught up in it and I'll even admit I shed a tear or two.
You see a lot of the film through Briony's eyes and her throughout her life, she is played by Saoirse Ronan (who was nominated for an Oscar), Romola Garai and finally Vanessa Redgrave. Atonement is a tragedy of epic proportions, from one small lie lives are changed forever.
Not only does the film have an excellent cast but is beautifully shot and doesn't deviate from the book much at all. I thoroughly enjoyed Atonement the film, even although I originally went in wanting to hate it, as it would never be as good as the book. I cannot recommend this film highly enough and it is definitely worth a watching!
You can purchase Atonement on DVD with a recommended retail price of £19..99 although you can get it on Amazon for the bargain buy of £4.99 at the moment.
I read Ian McEwan's novel a few years ago and greatly enjoyed it so I was a bit doubtful whether the film version could quite live up to it. On the whole I felt it did but certain aspects could have been a tad improved.
The film begins in 1930s England on an extremely hot Summer day. A young girl, Briony Tallis is writing a play in honour of her brother returning home and is attempting to get her three visiting cousins to particpate as the actors. However with the play not going according to plan Briony is left to her own devices and throughout the day witnesses several incidents between her sister Cecilia and the housekeeper's son, Robbie. Robbie and Cecilia have both recently returned from Cambridge University where Robbie has been paid through by Cecelia and Briony's father, where once they were friends their different social circles at university drove them apart however on this Summer's day things between them are very suddenly brought to a head.
Briony's behaviour this day will have consequences for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone and the remainder of the film follows the three of them as young adults during the war.
The film is very well put together and while it starts of quite mundane there are several twists and turns in the plot which I'm trying very hard not to reveal on here :) The acting is superb, in particular James McAvoy as Robbie. The settings used are all done very well but I particularly loved the house and garden at the start of the film where they all live - I think it perfectly captured how I would have pictured it in the book. Likewise the way that whole section is filmed really captured the essence of a long and incredibly hot day with danger brewing just below the surface.
If I have one complaint it was that I really disliked the character of Briony much more than I did in the book. I understand she is not necesscarily meant to be likeable, especially as a child at the start, however I found myself borderline hating her by the end whereas in the book I felt some sympathy towards in equal measure.
In short, I would recommend this film as it is very well composed and is nothing like what may be expected, especially in terms of plot. However, if you get the opportunity I would recommend reading the book first as I felt that I got a broader sense of the lead character, Briony, than I did in the film.
A piece of advice before you watch this DVD. Make sure you've selected the option that allows you to see the whole picture on screen. We didn't and really couldn't work out what was happening at the beginning. Finally we realised it was because we couldn't see the text at the bottom of the screen that explained how we were going backwards and forwards in time to see the same event from the perspective of different characters. Oops.
Anyway, since I assume most of you would have worked that out anyway, let's get to the film itself.
Starring Keira Knightly as the upper class Cecilia Tallis and James McAvoy as the maid's son made good, Robbie Turner, this award-winning film is from the book of the same name by Ian McEwan. The book is deeply moving and, although the film is brilliant as a film (and rightly achieved many awards and nominations for awards) it just cannot capture the agony that comes through the pages of the novel.
Living in the inter-war period, Cecilia and Robbie flout class differences to fall in love. But the danger to their happiness comes from an unexpected quarter and is more damaging than social constraints could ever have been. They are separated first by misunderstandings then by war; for much of the film they are apart although still in love.
Director Jim Knight is a dab hand at period drama (he also directed Pride and Prejudice). The first part of the film with its evocation of sultry and listless summer days amongst the upper classes just before the Second World War is achingly beautiful. But this is a moneyed class under threat - the plebs are snapping at their heels with new money and newly won education.
I won't put spoilers in here but suffice to say that the lives of the main participants are deeply affected by the situations created by these social changes and by the misunderstandings of a young girl who knows nothing of real life but whose position in society ensures that her word is accepted unquestioningly.
In the second part of the film, World War II has started and Jim Knight unflinchingly shows us some of its horrors. The scene of Dunkirk is a cinematic tour de force - filmed in a single, fluid shot that lasts over five minutes it feels like a parody of a day by the seaside. There is the bandstand, the ferris wheel, the crowds of people in groups on the beach, many of them having fun and making most of the temporary lull in fighting. But here too are the horses being killed by a single shot to the head, the injured and the clinically depressed. I found it overwhelming.
By the end of the film we start wondering if it should have been called Redemption rather than Atonement. But there's a sting in the tail and, unless you've read the book, I guarantee that you won't see it coming.
At the name suggest, the book is essentially about remorse and paying for ones sins. But although the film follows the book's storyline reasonably closely, I felt that the sense of lives wasted through the initial sin is less strong in the film than it is in the novel.
Atonement-directed by Joe Wright(Pride and Prejudice) stars James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. I actually saw it again last night since I loved it so much earlier.
Atonement focuses on three main characters over a range of years. A 13 year old Briony accuses her sister's lover Robbie of a certain crime that he never commited which lands him in jail and changes their lives forever! Told as a flashback, the film goes back and forth in time to show us the events that led to the certain scene, after which young Briony accuses Robbie.
The movie is adapted from a novel and I happen to have a certain weakness for such films. Joe Wright and his team deserves a lot of credit for adapting it so well,the screenplay is fantastic! We see Briony's perspective, how she has a crush on Robbie, how she reacts to Cecilia and Robbie being together. The story doesn't leave any holes, it explains everything to the audience so wonderfully! We,as audiences follow Robbie and Cecilia over the years, when Robbie is forced to enter the army and Cecilia works as a nurse. Young Briony's journey towards realization of her mistake and how it changed everyone's live is where the heart of the film lies and boy is it gripping. The film unfolds at a gradual pace, making you realize how such an accusation changed how things could have been otherwise.
The chemistry between Robbie and Cecilia is brought into screen brilliantly by McAvoy and Keira Knightley. They don't share too many scenes together but even when they are away from each other,the longing shows on their eyes! The director shifts focus to Briony in the latter half and her story impresses you equally. The storytelling is so effective that you are really pulled inside the whole situation and it affects you as a person. What further enhances the effect is the brilliant soundtrack. I can guarantee you that you haven't come across a more brilliant soundtrack in films, it elevates the film to a different level. The camera work deserves a mention here; the brilliant visuals are captured with much expertise.
The ending of the film will leave you spellbound, it is one of the most moving endings of a film. Only such a strong ending could have done justice to such a beautiful film, a film about love,loss and penance!
This Oscar nominated film from English director Joe Wright is an adaptation of the prize-winning novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. Released in 2007, it lost out in the Best Picture category to No Country For Old Men. Although boasting a cast with established names such as Keira Knightley and James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave, critics singled out the performance of thirteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan, making her breakthrough here in the pivotal supporting role of a young girl whose actions rip apart her family.
The setting and the style of the film as it follows the fall out from a fateful evening at a privileged country manor on the eve of the Second World War feel very evocative of the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited, although the narrative fractures to reveal metaphysical aspects of the nature of storytelling and war and memory and growing old. It is left to the audience to determine whether the young girl's behaviour was malicious or merely naïve, or whether forgiveness even matters, in the context of the war, and the social upheavals soon to follow. In a sense, the folly of a rich family is served up as a metaphor for the breakdown of interwar society, and the damage done to human lives.
I was ready to hate this film and wasn't prepared for it being so good. It has the character you simply want to strangle the most this side of Tess of the d'Urbevilles until she, well, tries to atone, over the course of her life, as portrayed by three different actresses. And this is the device for some interesting narrative jumps which are irritating at first but come to make sense - the rival points of view, the dream like war sequences, the decision to let the key resolution happen off screen in favour of the shift in focus back to the younger sister, the jolting framing device. I did actually cry. Stupid film! Not sure this is one that would stand up to a second viewing, because of the surprising turns in the narrative which can only be presented effectively the first time you watch, but it presents plenty of intriguing ideas and I found myself curious to take a look at the book. A criticism might be that it feels a bit self-absorbed in its own meta-narrative, at times maybe, but the story is strong enough to pull this off.
Here is my personal reaction to the film, which contains spoilers, so that's your lot if you've not yet seen this, because you'll want to go into this without too much foreknowledge to preserve the impact of the story structure. I don't feel I can do justice to discussing this film without wrestling with its themes in full, as I found it to be very effective and thought provoking, albeit at times frustrating as well:
I think what's interesting about Atonement is this idea of where the focus of the story lies. Is it seen from the point of view of the two would be romantic leads, or from the point of view of this seemingly secondary character who, either through ignorance or spite, misunderstands something crucial and tears the world of the would be lovers apart, before their romance can properly begin.
But then the whole idyllic world of these young rich people in the inter war years is interrupted itself, by something much bigger, more ignorant, more spiteful, than what is later revealed to be the spurned heart of a young girl. The love story is actually ended by the Second World War, abruptly, a mere fifty minutes into the two hour film, even though at first it seems like a mere interruption, and there are hints the story will be allowed to continue.
But what follows is actually a reverie on loss from the point of view of a dying soldier who will never see his love again. His imagined reunion happens off screen, because it never really happens at all. That last night is forever frozen and fixed and fragmented in memory, overtaken by events. He wanders around in this no-man land, searching, yearning, but there's no way back to the world he knew.
The focus shifts back to the young girl who interrupted her sister's love affair and seemingly ruined their lives. She has abandoned a place at Cambridge almost as a penance to atone for her sin by working as a nurse. In a uniform her identity is stripped from her by the war and by her superior and there is this sense that she is just one nurse and the man she sent to prison is just one soldier and their stories are nearly trivial against this horrid backdrop of the war and yet still she blames herself and torments herself by trying to type out at night a novel which will explain the truth of what happened to them. She fights to reassert her identity on these terrible events and to seem to us as a sympathetic character who has grown from her mistakes.
And we see that just as she did not see everything that happened that day, we did not see everything about her. It's interesting when the narrative suddenly breaks again to the present day and the girl is now a dying author who is losing her memory, having finally been able to write the book she started with all those years ago, she confesses it was all true until she decided to try and give something back to the soldier who died on the beaches of northern France and the nurse who drowned in the bombed out London air raid shelter, by allowing them to continue their story beyond death. Because she seems to realise by now that her honesty is not nearly enough.
But it's interesting that the one thing she cannot reconstruct through historic research is the moment the two leads are reunited. And that even though she imagines these people surviving the war, she can't bring herself to imagine that they would forgive her for what she did to them.
So again there is this friction between the self-absorbed lives of the privileged and the broader canvas of the war. But also now there is this idea of an author determining the fate of her characters. Did the writer kill off the characters by her own hand, or is she just swept up in events like the rest of us? Are we the authors of our own lives? What she did tore her sister and her friend's lives apart, but she didn't kill them. The war did that.
Or was the war a bigger symptom of the perverted entitlement of the upper classes? The ultimate consequence of drawing ordinary people into the machinations of those who think they understand the world, but don't. And there's the hint through the use of a window that in the same way what she thought she saw that day smashed apart the idyllic world she knew and exposed it for a lie, the glimpse of an old woman on the street smashes apart the idyll of the lovers reunited, and transports us into our own future, looking back on imagined worlds.
Also, the shared memory is so brief, and the characters are shown to be so ambivalent before hand, do they romanticise what they have precisely because it is interrupted and overtaken by events? The war could here just be a metaphor for real life. The memory becomes important because it is frozen, and because people feel they need something to hold on to to keep them from being swept away by the torrent of history. Had the story not been interrupted, it could have gone either way, and might not have been a story at all. It would be in flux like everything else and there wouldn't be anything to hold onto.
In the imagined scene where the girl goes to see her sister, for a moment her partner seems almost like a blur, which perhaps he was, and we're not sure whether perhaps she found somebody else. But then he seems to be conjured back up out of the imagination, after the glimpse of some tumbled bed sheets, and this is what happens.
The girl did something wrong, but not only did she not kill these characters, she can't know how they would have lived either. She cannot know what she is atoning for. Her point of view looking from the window out on that fountain remains obscured until the end. And the more important thing which she witnessed that day, which she did see first hand, and which she does belatedly manage to piece together, and on which she could act, she does nothing about. Maybe out of fear for being wrong again, or maybe because that story was never interrupted, or even really known or imagined, and doesn't seem up for grabs. It was just something which happened.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Atonement is an adaptaton of Ian McEwan's novel. I've not read the novel but from my understanding this is a solid adaptation of it, and stands by itself as a very impressive film, although I did find its claim to the Oscars a little outrageous, aside from Dario Marienelli's superb soundtrack.
Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl who comes from an upper class family and loves writing stories. Her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) is at University, and is embroilled in an on-and-off sexual tryst with young man Robbie Turner (James McAvoy). However, Briony witnesses a scene and misconstrues the dynamic, assuming that her sister is being denigrated and abused by Robbie. Thus, Robbie gets into trouble, and doesn't really help things with a rather foolish act. Things are complicated when he is drafted to go to war, and so all will have to atone for the things that they have done.
Atonement is a very complex film that darts through time and changes perspective numerous times, but it's also a rewarding one in as much as it delivers a few nifty twists and turns and an emotionally satisfying plot. It looks at yearning, at jealously, at family, and most prominently, at love, with a watchful magnifying glass thanks to McEwan's sharp eye for dialogue and also for social nuances. Performances are decent, although there's not much here that's impressive aside from Ronan's Oscar-nominated performance. The cinematography, particularly in the superb Dunkirk evacuation scene, is astounding, and also the soundtrack is endlessly inventive, making superb use of a typewriter.
An intriguing Oscar-nominated period piece with a wonderful soundtrack and impressive performances all around. The pace did plod at times, but the 4.5-minute single-shot Dunkirk evacuation scene, and the surprising turn in the final 10 minutes brought the film back to life. A good film, just not a great one, nor an Oscar-caliber picture.
This is a truely wonderful film. It is up there with the likes of the English Patient and Out of Africa. It is a film that is carried by the marvellous performances of its main stars. It explores the topics of betrayal and jelously and lies and the effects that seemingly small acts can have on the lives of others.
It is set in the late 1930's, just prior to the war. The main characters are played by Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. The story centres around a rich family, the Tallis' and the Turners (their hired help). Robbie Turner (James MacAvoy) has been supported through University by the Tallis' and almost treated as one of the family. The stroy is mainly seen through the eyes of the young 13 year old Briony Tallis who harbours a crush on Robbie. Briony is highly imaginative and wishes to be a writer and writes plays and stories. She witnesses a scene between Robbie and her elder sister Cecilia which she cannot hear and therefore misunderstands. She later pretends to drown to get Robbie to rescue her and when he finds she was play acting he is harshly critical of her, leaving her feeling hurt and embarrased. Robbie later passes her a letter for Cecelia which she reads and is shocked by (the language is definitly not for a 12 year old) and also witnesses Robbie and Cecilia during the throws of passion in the library. All of these things lead her to falsely accuse Robbie of the rape of her 14 year old cousin Lola who is staying with the family. Robbie is not guilty and it is in fact a friend of Brionys brother who commits the rape, but Briony's accusation is damning. This one act of revenge on Briony's part leads to a series of events that ultimately lead to tradgedy.
The film moves on to follow the grown up Briony who has now become a nurse in London and also features what happens to Robbie and Cecilia. It explores what could have happened if Briony had told the truth and it shows what actually happens.
The two leads are excellent as you would expect them to be, however the real star is the young Saoirse Ronan (who has been selected to star in Lovely Bones). She is wonderful as the young, intelligent, painfully shy and ultimately human Briony whose single action alters the course of many of their lives including her own. Hers is the Atonment of the title. She spends her whole life trying to atone for her single childish mistake that has very adult consequences. It also shows how the other two leads Cecelia and Robbie also have to atone for her mistale even though they are both innocent.
This is an absorbing film which is amazing when you consider it has very little in the way of set piece action sequences and needs very little if any CGI. This is totally story and character driven. You are pulled into these peoples lives and witness the whole tradgedy as it plays out. It is a story about peoples lives and it shines out as a jewel in a business that is often dominated by films that are just action and special effects. I loved this film and it made me cry most of the way through. It is well worth watching.
Unusually for me I forst watched this film at the cinema before I read the book. Normally, I read the book first then am disappointed by the film. However, this movie is an exception: I prefer the film to the book (although I loved both). The film has become one of my favourites of all time.
The story is that of a young girl, Briony Tallis, who sees a series of events involving her sister and the educated and upwardly mobile housekeeper's son (Cecilia and Robbie). When her cousin is attacked, Briony, because of what she has seen happening between Robbie and Cecilia, assumes it was him who raped Lola (the cousin) and on her evidence he is convicted. We then jump four years forward in time, and see Robbie released from prison to serve in the army during WWII. We follow his time in France to the evacuation at Dunkirk, and Briony and Cecilia's experiences as wartime nurses. Cecilia is estranged from her family, and never believes the attacker was Robbie. When Briony sees Lola marry the real attacker, her mistake becomes apparent. She sets about trying to atone for her mistakes. But it's too late for Robbie and Cecilia...
So, a fairly complex story, and in the movie (like the book) we see several viewpoints including Briony's, Robbie's and Cecilia's. That feels almost like an inadequate summing up of the story, but the detail is rich and I could write for hours!
The story is relatively true to the book though not entirely. It accurately captures the essence and emotion of Ian McEwan's story without following some of the more superflous areas of plot.
There are some good performances - Keira Knightly won me round as Cecilia, and Romola Garai's teenage Briony makes us sympathetic towards her even as we learn what she has done. But the standout performance is, in my book, James McAvoy as Robbie. We really understand the depth of his feelings for Cecilia, and his struggle injured through France.
However, it is the film's production which really captured my imagination. There are two scenes which were particularly breathtaking. One is the scene where Robbie discovers a mass of bodies in the woods on his way through France. The shot is beautiful, understated where it would be easy to overplay the moment. But the scene on the beach at Dunkirk is one of the most amazing I have seen. It is one long shot which must run for 10-15 minutes, panning the length of the beach and capturing the desolation of the scene. Credit must go to the director for managing to organise so many extras and actors to make that one long shot! Truly breathtaking!
Overall, I love this film. I've watched it several times now and never tired of it. The story is rich and powerful, and the performances and feel of the film evoke the tragedy of the story.
Atonement is a magnificent film. Even though it stars the more than slightly annoying Keira Knightley with her pouting, jutting jaw and terrible real-accent, this film is an absolute blinder. James McElroy provides a blinding performance which absolutely makes this film.
The film is set in 1935 during one of the world wars and is an emotional film which just keeps you gripped all the way through. The film seems relatively straight forward to understand and doesn't seem too emotional until you get to the end where the film wraps up. It will probably leave you crying if you're prone to emotional films.
Some of the language used isn't suitable for the youngsters (or even the old...sters - so be careful if you're watching it with parents/relatives) but is a beautiful tale overall which is well worth the watch no matter what films you're into (unless you are ONLY into action films, and still, there might be something in there for you ;) )
The film is based on the book of the same name by Ian McEwan. Set in the 1930s and pre, during and post the second world war, it tells the story of how a young girl with a passion for fantasy and storytelling (Briony Talis) convinces herself of the guilt of her sister's (Cecilia Talis) innocent boyfriend, (Robbie Turner) with disasterous consequences, and thus changing all their lives forever. This film tells of her atonement for the story which she told.
Having read the book before seeing the film, I find it difficult to be sure whether the film would have been as easy to follow or as successful if I hadn't read the book. Certainly there are little details which aren't explained in the film but you remember from the book and think, oh yes, she was thinking such a thing at this point, etc.
For example, the scene by the pool when Cecilia (played by Keira Knightley) gives her brother a meaningful look corresponds with a moment in the book where they are playing a game which they used to as children. There is also the scene with Robbie (James McAvoy) where Cecilia suggests that she 'prefers Fielding anyday'. In the book, this has more significance as we know that Cecilia is reading 'Clarissa' by Richardson, yet it was Fielding who wrote 'Shamela', a parody of Richardson's 'Pamela', and Cecilia suggesting that she perfers this, she feels, suggests that she is more sexually liberated, which she feels embarrassed about.
However, I watched the film with my mum (who hasn't read the book), and she said she thought the film was very good, and the emotions of it seemed to come through very well, almost as well as in the book. For example, the scene where Briony comforts the French soldier Luc, which was one of the defining scenes of the book, I thought came across very well in the film also.
The film, then, is very complete and very well directed. I particularly like how the music is connected with the characters who, at the end of a musical interlude, always seem to be playing an instrument which reintroduces the audieance to the characters and the action. I also really liked the typing noises appearing throughout the film which remind the reader that this is a story; like the book, the film is cleverly metafictional and aware of itself as a story.
There are of course details and lots of scenes which don't make the film; obviously you can't fit everything in, but the film is a great accompaniment for anyone who has read the book and fantastically complete in itself for anyone who hasn't.
A success then, I feel, which can't always be said of film adaptations, but this film really stays loyal to McEwan's idea and passion and it is well worth watching. The casting seems very appropriate. In fact, when I was reading the book, I was aware that Keira Knightley played Cecilia in the film and from the descriptions in the book, it really could have been that McEwan wrote the character with her in mind. I was less sure about James McAvoy as Robbie Turner as in the book, he is depicted as quite tall and imposing, yet McAvoy really does the character justice.
The Dvd, which also contains deleted scenes, making of documentary, novel to screen feature and director's commentary, is also very reasonably priced at the moment (about £4.99 at Amazon, HMV and Asda).
Sometimes three dooyoo stars means five dooyoo stars with me because when it comes to Oscar laden movies I tend to knock one off when they fail to inspire, however well made and acted they are, especially meandering British war time epics like the English Patient, a film that had me pulling my nails out in frustration of the dullness of it all, surely one of British cinemas most over-rated films (Four Weddings comfortably top of that list), the main reason I was reticent to rent this, Atonement almost a tribute to that three hour groan in all but name.
It's a visually stunning and authentic piece make no mistake and Keira Knightly is the stand out performance as the decadent moneyed daughter from the manor, but the central love story between her and James McAvoy has little chemistry and so not a truly romantic film in any way, or at least in my book, the film as cold as a broken fridge in the North Pole, Cold Mountain coming to mind if you need a comparison.
For some reason the Academy expect this type of film when the Brits push for Oscars and so we go along with those cold clipped middle class stereotypes. When we do the likewise broadsheet arts & culture press cut from the same cloth tend to gush over these movies and increase the hype, when in truth if you strip down the narrative and love story there's nothing remotely new here, however respected the pedigree.
Atonement, of course, is based on best selling author Ian McEwen's book by the same name, his third book to film project so far, Enduring love his best, The Good Son
the worst by far. The film features an extravagant tracking shot, some five-and-a-half minutes of the Dunkirk retreat from the beaches, which to be fair although celebrated as great screenplay work was surely put in to make the film less dull. The scene was shot at Redcar beach in Yorkshire. The tracking shot was done in four takes (the third one was used). The crew only had a day to film and had limited time with the 1,100 extras and so had to shoot before the tide would come in and wash the set into the nearby Filey-Butlins. The Redcar locals were all paid £50 each for their services.
Saoirse Ronan ... Briony Tallis - Age 13
Brenda Blethyn ... Grace Turner
Julia West ... Betty
James McAvoy ... Robbie Turner
Harriet Walter ... Emily Tallis
Keira Knightley ... Cecilia Tallis
Juno Temple ... Lola Quincey
Felix von Simson ... Pierrot Quincey
Charlie von Simson ... Jackson Quincey
Alfie Allen ... Danny Hardman
Patrick Kennedy ... Leon Tallis
Benedict Cumberbatch ... Paul Marshall
It's the decadent 1930s in the English Home Counties and 13-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) has a crush on 23-year-old Robbie (James McAvoy), who is chasing her big sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) whilst staying at their huge house in the country. Cecilia is playing haughty and hard to get and when young Briony discovers a love letter written by Robbie to Cecilia that contains the most obscene of words beginning with 'C' and then catches them at it in the drawing room she knows their passion is real and she will never have him, the age difference nothing to the precocious Briony, her passion for writing plays adding to the drama playing out in her mind of turmoil overt this discovery.
When one of the visiting Tallis family's underage but flirtatious cousins, Lola Quincey (Juno Temple), is sexually assaulted by Paul (Benedict Cumberbatch), Cecilia's brother Leon's (Patrick Kennedy) best friend, Bryonies jealousy gets the better of her and tells Lola to say it was Robbie that did it, which Lola reluctantly agrees to, resulting in his arrest, the family far too well to do for this to get out in the press and so Robbie taken down.
The film then flips forward to World War 2 and the failed Dunkirk invasion, Robbie a private in the army and trying to escape occupied France, joining up his only option to escape his prison sentence. Cecilia and Briony have never spoken since and only letters connect Robbie to his lover. But will that love survive the war and how can Briony repay her treachery that looks set to ruin so many lives and loves lost...
After yours truly won the Daily Mail caption contest on Friday, involving an insulting comment about Hugh Grants rather wooden acting skills, Ikea Knightley naturally popped into my head in the video store, so Atonement my final selection for the Blockbuster five films for five quid deal to get me through this inclement spell of weather. I've been putting it off because I feared it would be another English Patient but to be fair it's not too boring and I lasted the two hours. Why Oscar chasing movies always have to be over two hours is beyond me but at least there was some sort of story to fill those two hours here, these big movies often too much about the performance and the period visual to the last minutia than the actual narrative.
Its beautifully scored and very cinematic, expressing the decadency of the 1930s and how courting would painfully suppress passion in the upper classes, one having to marry into money to keep their status rather than marry for love. Through subtle flashback to the tap of the typewriter as the secret letters too-and-fro the story is allowed to unwind through different angles and perspective, the passion of relationships always about the bits when you are apart rather than together, when what you want most is not with you, always the suggestion that what you are seeing on screen is a novel within a novel.
The first 50 minutes of the film does linger on the flirting at the house a bit too much and a posh gal can only twiddled her pearls for so long before she wants to jump on him, at this point needing a good boot up the bum to get the film going. Keira does great in that role and it's a breeze for McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan excellent as the young and precocious temptress.
I never read the book as I'm not clever enough for the author but I'm sure it transfers well under Joe Wright's direction. But at the end of the day it's exactly the film I thought it would be and so not really my cup of tea. But if you like this sort of period costume drama then I suspect you will disagree and absolutely love this, British film at its most frightfully middle-class and so geared towards Americans that like that sort of thing and have that perception of this country. But this is not my cup of tea dear boy.
= = = = = Special Features = = = = =
Joe Wright gives a studious account of the making of.
Quite a few sprawling ones
-The Making Of-
Straightforward behind the scenes stuff that goes into that five minute continuous shot rather too much. The cast & crew also chip in to elevate the product some more to the Academy.
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Imdb.com scores it 7.9 out of 10.0 (69,657 votes)
RuN-TiMe 123 minutes
5 films for £5 weekly deal at Blockbusters
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