Rated R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.
Directed By: Joe Wright
Written By: Christopher Hampton
Staring: James McAvoy, Kiera Knightly, Saoirse Ronin, Julia West, and Harriet Walter
Dearest Cecilia, the story can resume. The one I had been planning on that evening walk. I can become again the man who once crossed the surrey park at dusk, in my best suit, swaggering on the promise of life. The man who, with the clarity of passion, made love to you in the library. The story can resume. I will return. Find you, love you, marry you and live without shame. -Robbie Turner
In the 1930′s a romance of the greatest passion occurs but is thwarted by a common misunderstanding. Coming across aloof, a dark enigma, this story is not only about romance, but a story about the pain and loss of war, and personal guilt that is beyond reproach, all from the perspective of the young. It’s dumbfounding what one small misunderstanding can do to change the entire outlook and lives for so many. The responsibility that goes along with the knowledge is where Atonement really derives it’s strength from, making it’s tale a giant, “What if?”
A young woman in the 1930′s falls madly in love with a man of a slightly lower station. As soon as it seems their relationship is ready to commence a plight is before them, based on the misinterpretation from a thirteen year old girl confused by her own feelings and adult situations that she never understood. Separated by miles their love endures, but a feeling of some unforeseen force seems to keep them at odds even though they try perilously to relive the magical romance that stemmed in a time a world so different from the one each had fallen in love in.
The setting, the fortress that is the Tallis household, seems cut off from the rest of the world, a universe all of it’s own, though there is something foreboding about the future of it’s character’s it isn’t clear who or when it will happen. The allusions of Briony’s affection, but inability to understand that affection for Robbie manifests in frustration when her older sister Cecelia begins to have interludes that only results is a sexual discomfort for her, while watching the very subtle passion develop between Robbie and Cecelia.
The essence of the thirties is truly captured. The costume design is magnificent catching the time period eloquently but also the class and station of the Tallis family. There is a noble and regal feel to the costumes almost giving them as much life as the characters. The cinematography is striking. While at theTallis home everything is bright and carefree, even though ominous signs predict a future of darkness. When the darkness does come, it manifests itself visually as well. The world is gray and dark, reflecting the hopelessness of their stations. Only when Cecilia and Robbie are together in memory or otherwise does a bit of brightness comes through. The costumes and the cinematography work wonders to compliment the dialogue and the pathos of the characters.
The story was rather well put together, but there were a few things that lacked. The twist at the end felt like it was thrown in for the sake of a twist, making most of the events seem more resounding than they actually were. If a twist has a place in a film and it makes sense with the rest of the film like Se7en, but this was not a movie built for the revelation at the end and it simply felt affected. There were moments of Atonement that were slow, and didn’t really feel like contributed to what was happening. The romance felt powerful but I’m not sure it emoted as much as was advertised. I felt a little disappointed myself.
Atonement was a well put together film that reveled in it’s dramatic quality, even though went for the unnecessary plot shocker at the end. It may not have had the initial impact that the film had, but it would have been more honest to what happened up to that point and would have made it worth watching again. Instead, I was left with the feeling of being manipulated, which left the wrong kind of impression in my mind when the rest of the film had been enjoyable. This isn’t one that I will watch again, but it was clearly worth the viewing.