Atonement, I would have to say, is my favorite movie I've seen since I started Film Fancy. Considering I've probably seen (though not formally reviewed) 100+ films in that time period, that's saying a lot. But Atonement really takes the cake. It absolutely deserves its 13 BAFTA, 6 Golden Globe, and 7 Oscar nominations. It won Best Motion Picture at the BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards. Both McAvoy and Knightley give great performances as awkward sweethearts, as passionate lovers, and as tortured souls when separated from each other. Also, Saoirse Ronan gives an almost chilling performance as young Briony. The film seems light and sweet at first, but underneath can be felt a deep foreboding. Something is about to go very wrong.
Briony is the precocious younger sister of the ravishing Cecilia (Knightley). After an explicit letter from Robbie, the housekeeper's son, mistakenly makes its way into Cecilia's hands, the two realize their love for each other. Unfortunately, Briony, the messenger, read the letter. And later she walks in on the two lovers during a passionate episode in the library. Shocked and confused by what she has seen and read, a whirlwind of events later leads Briony to accuse Robbie of crimes he never committed. He is sent away to prison, and then to World War I still raging in Europe, irrevocably changing Cecilia and Robbie's lives forever. Although at the time Briony had no idea the gravity of her actions, she later sees that her false accusation broke her sister's heart, creating an irreparable rift between them, and ruined a good man's life. As she grows into a woman, Briony spends her life attempting desperately, though in vain, to atone for her sin.
McAcoy's performance is really outstanding. I really enjoyed his performance, as well as Knightley's. It was amazingly refreshing to see Knightley as a character who's actually a "grown-up" instead of a girl on the edge of womanhood. McAvoy and Knightley really do light up the screen together. The cinematography is beautiful, the settings and the lighting as well. Oddly enough, the fact that Atonement is a British film can actually be seen in the cinematography. Director Joe Wright has been nominated for several awards for Atonement, and with good reason. Child actress Ronan is really fabulous. On the whole Atonement is very, very good. If you haven't seen it, you really should. It's a beautiful, beautiful love story. Heartwrenching but a treat to watch. Very rich.
Conclusion: This is going on the official Unmissables list. It's captivating, it draws you in, it lets you feel what Briony feels, what Robbie and Cecilia feel. If you're old enough, or mature enough to see the sex scene, then go see it. In the theater, rent it, or illegally download it, it's a must-see.
Rated: R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.
See the trailer
- James McAvoy considered the script the best he had ever read.
- The opening film of the 2007's Venice Film Festival. Director Joe Wright, at 35, is the youngest director to have a film open this prestigious event.
- As Robbie is taken by the police, Briony peers through a window decorated with figures in stained glass. One stained glass figure is labeled Matilda. This is an allusion to a famous children's poem by Hilaire Belloc entitled "Matilda", whose first line runs, "Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one's eyes". By the end of the poem, Matilda has burned to death, having called wolf one time too many.