Movie Review by Silvia Felce
Starring: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Brenda Blethyn
Director: Joe Wright
ATONEMENT is a complex story of love, war, envy, perceptions and, of course, about expiation of a terrible mistake. This mistake is made by 13 year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), and it will change not only her life but that of her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and her lover Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) forever. It all starts during the summer of 1935, when Briony, a wannabe writer with a fervid imagination, misunderstands the relationship between Cecilia and Robbie and accuses the guy of a terrible crime he hasn’t committed.
Adapted from Ian McEwan’s famous book, the story is told from Briony’s point of view through three stages of her life: when she’s 13, when she is 18 and when she is older. As the second War World erupts, while Cecilia and Robbie try to regain hold of their disrupted life, Briony (Romola Garai), now 18, is trying to expiate her guilt by working as a nurse in a hospital. It will be old Briony (Vanessa Redgrave) to tell us whether she was able and, if it is in fact, possible or not, to get atonement.
There is a kind of modernity in this costume drama, the way Wright plays with time, flashbacks and point of view and the result is excellent. Although Knightley is the start of the film, it is actually Ronan and Garai that steal the show. Ronan proves to be an excellent actress, despite her young age, giving such a charismatic and well round portrait of young Briony. Garai has the fortune to play the most interesting character and she is up for the job. She plays 18 years old Briony a complex young woman, overwhelmed by remorse and shame and she tries to punish herself as she deals with blood and death at the hospital. It feels a shame that she is not on the screen for longer. McAvoy gives once again a terrific performance, placing himself as one of the best British actor around at the moment.
An exceptionally well photographed and well acted film, which does justice to an already beautiful story. Wright managed to keep it very romantic but never annoyingly sweet, with the bonus of a Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave couple of very sensual scenes. This film is an emotional involving experience that won’t leave you untouched.