Newest Review: ... 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... more
Atoning for one lie that can change everything
Member Name: bilbob20
Date: 10/09/11, updated on 11/09/11 (41 review reads)
Advantages: Beautifully filmed and acted
Disadvantages: I'm still not getting Keira Knightely
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.
Summary: Slow but effective drama about the effects of one person's actions