Atonement. It means to be reconciled with someone after a rift in a relationship. But when the fracture is large, how can it be healed? Joe Wright’s new movie, Atonement, based on the Ian McEwan novel of the same name, is all about the wide relational chasm that forms between two sisters, Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightly). Briony, the younger of the two, accuses Cecilia’s lover, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), of a crime he didn’t commit. Their lives are changed forever as a result.
Atonement is a powerful story of love, guilt, self-deception, and the desperate need for reconciliation that seems impossible. The film is superbly structured as we see certain events from multiple perspectives and times. The narrative moves forward and backward, revealing different nuances as it approaches significant moments, retreats, and re-engages.
The cinematography is beautiful. One notable scene is the 4.5 minute long shot on the Dunkirk Beach. The soundtrack uses wisely selected classical music and is frequently overlaid with the sound of an old typewriter clacking - symbolic of power of words to affect us deeply.
The performances are excellent and Keira Knightley shows she really can act. James McEvoy is also excellent as Robbie, the falsely accused lover. And Saoirse Ronan, who plays the 13-year-old Briony is superb. These three characters are the backbone of the film, but even the supporting roles are well executed.
It is wonderful to see a movie with deep themes, great direction, good acting, and an intriguing and profound narrative. This one is most definitely an Oscar contender in my book! It opens here in Australia on Boxing Day (26 December). Don’t miss it!
My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)
’Rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life, but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms, as with Atonement, Brit helmer Joe Wright’s smart, dazzlingly upholstered adaptation of Ian McEwan’s celebrated 2001 novel.’ - Derek Elley/Variety
’You have to admire it, when so much of the competition seems inane and slack, but you can’t help wondering, with some impatience, what happened to its heart.’ - Anthony Lane/The New Yorker
Disturbing war images, language and some sexuality