Atonement. (2007)

Starring: Keira Knightley
James McAvoy
Saoirse Ronan

Directed by: Joe Wright
Novel Written by: Ian McEwan

The movie opens with a young Briony Tallis (Ronan) finishing her first play. Her older sister Cecilia (Knightley) lives with her and the rest of their family on their estate. Robbie Turner (McAvoy) is their housekeepers son who managed to attend Cambridge with Cecilia through the help of Mr. Tallis but tries to start paying off his debt by working on the estate before he leave for medical school in the fall. Also introduced are Lola, Felix and Charlie who are Briony and Cecilia’s cousins who are staying with them in the midst of their parents divorce.  The girls’ older brother, Leon, also comes home with a friend in tow named Paul who owns a chocolate factory.
While trying to get her three cousins to rehearse the play she finished, Briony witnesses an odd scene between Cecilia and Robbie. From her window with no knowledge of the situation it appears that he is aggressive with her sister and she strips down to her underwear and jumps into the fountain only to get right back out and storm away. Briony doesnt understand what she saw but it starts a whole series of events that cannot be stopped.
Before going to eat dinner for the night Robbie tries to write a letter of apology to Cecilia (the scene at the fountain was over a broken vase, she jumped in to retrieve the broken piece and was angry at him over it) and makes a multitude of attempts, including one very sexual explicit letter. Finally drafting one he likes, he slips it into the envelope and heads on his way. While halfway there he sees Briony and has her run the letter ahead to her sister, only realizing shortly after that he grabbed the wrong letter and was sending a erotically charged love note instead. Briony delivers the note, but not after reading it and again completely misunderstanding the situation – Cecilia isn’t offended, but rather happy, because she in fact has always been in love with Robbie and he with her.
Later that night, Briony walks in on Cecilia and Robbie making love for the first time but because of the earlier events of the day, she misinterprets the act as Robbie being a sex maniac and trying to hurt her sister. During dinner the twins go missing (Felix and Charlie) and everyone scatters into the woods to find them. While searching Briony comes across a man on top of a woman and finds out it was her cousin Lola being raped. She automatically assumes it was Robbie, tells the police and when he returns shortly thereafter (with the twins in tow) he is arrested and taken away. Cecilia refuses to believe that he could do this, whispering in his ear “Come back…come back to me” before they are ripped apart.
The movie moves ahead and Robbie is serving in WWII. He was released from prison to enlist and has been separated from Cecilia since that fateful day. He did have one chance to see her before he deployed. Cecilia had refused contact with her family since that day because of their belief in Robbie’s guilt, she holds most of her anger towards Briony – knowing she sent Robbie to prison. She has become a nurse in London and tells Robbie she will wait for him to come back to her and they can get on with their lives. We then find out that Briony has also enrolled in a nursing program in London as some sort of atonement for her sins against her sister and the man she loved. She is trying to find Cecilia but cannot get her to return the contact. Briony had attended the wedding of Paul and her cousin Lola and realized that it wasn’t Robbie who had raped Lola that night, it was Paul.

I dont want to spoil the whole movie so I’ll leave it there.

My Take:
I thought this movie was beautiful. It was stunning to watch and each of the characters were well written. Most applause though has to go to the director because he took a story that could have been dull and slightly drawn out and made it full of life. Movies that go back and forth with flashbacks and flash-forwards and such normally annoy me, I get sick of it. Atonement did it in such a way that you really felt like you were getting both sides of the story accurately and you were able to understand why everyone acted as they did. I give it a bunch of thumbs up and say it was probably of the of the best movies I’ve seen this year. We all wish for that blind, unfaltering love and belief in someone else. Go see it. Or else.


~ by Mathy Shoots People on September 9, 2008.

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