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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.98%
Worth A Look37.08%
Just Average: 26.97%
Pretty Crappy: 10.11%
Sucks: 7.87%

10 reviews, 29 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Never trust the little sister with the love note."
4 stars

Childish misunderstandings produce dire consequences in "Atonement," an achingly poignant melodrama whose title's significance doesn't hit home until the final minutes. Based on Ian McEwan's novel, the story is awash in tragic romance, the kind where lovers are at the mercy of cruel fate as minor events change the course of their lives.

It begins on a hot summer day in 1935 at the Tallis estate in England. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), a bossy and precocious writer, is trying to corral her cousins into performing a play she's written for the evening's entertainment, as her older brother and a friend are visiting from London. But the kids are more interested in swimming. Everyone is listless and deflated, the way lazy summer afternoons often make us.

From her bedroom window, Briony sees her older sister, Cecilia (Keiry Knightley), out on the lawn, talking to Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the housekeeper's son. Is there a flirtation there? Later Robbie asks Briony to deliver a note to Cecilia, which Briony reads and misconstrues. Briony subsequently finds Cecilia and Robbie in the library together, engaged in some rather compromising behavior. When a truly nefarious deed is committed later that evening, Briony tells the police it was Robbie. She saw him do it -- or, at least, she put two and two together and determined the answer must be four.

Joe Wright (2005's "Pride & Prejudice") directs these early scenes with great tension and energy, and just a dash of humor. Robbie does something silly while composing his note to Cecilia, and yet that small, careless act has far-reaching consequences. I marvel at the way Wright conveys both sides of it: it's a dumb thing, and it's also a hugely important thing. It's both. Life is like that, isn't it?

The story jumps ahead a few years to World War II, with Robbie fighting in northern France and going a bit nutty from the war. Cecilia, a nurse, has never forgiven Briony for her false accusations all those years earlier. Briony (now played by Romola Garai) is in training to be a nurse herself, and she longs to undo the terrible wrongs she committed. But is it too late? And whom does she really want to placate anyway -- those she harmed, or her own conscience?

With gorgeous photography by Seamus McGarvey ("The Hours") and a beautifully emotive musical score by Dario Marianelli ("Pride & Prejudice") -- not to mention the lovely period costumes and all the other accoutrements of tragic romances -- "Atonement" strikes almost all of the right chords. Furthermore, an astounding 5 1/2-minute scene on the beach of Dunkirk, all captured in one shot, cements Wright's status as a director with marvelous technical proficiency.

It is a very good movie, if not a great one. James McAvoy, overshadowed in "The Last King of Scotland" by Forrest Whitaker's more noticeable performance, should get more attention here, as his Robbie is the real protagonist of the film, and an expressive and sensitive character to boot. On the other hand, Keira Knightley, though no slouch in the acting department, is curiously unremarkable as Cecilia. The character is consigned to a fate worse than death for movie heroines: waiting and pining for the man she loves.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15981&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/06/07 20:15:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/03/10 cook sad yet stunning film. great acting. two thumbs up 5 stars
11/03/09 me gorgeous, almost as great as the book 5 stars
8/01/09 Samantha Pruitt very sad and depressing, but the acting is good and it looks great. 4 stars
4/21/09 Jean W. I felt so alone hating this movie. Fuss and pretension. No substance. 2 stars
3/23/09 Anonymous. one of my favorite movies :] 5 stars
1/03/09 Hello i thought this film was beautiful and perfect. =] 5 stars
12/14/08 Pamela White surreal ending but film drama lacking 3 stars
10/16/08 Simon A tad too indulgent and dramatically concocted for me. does make you sad, thats something.. 3 stars
8/19/08 Phil M. Afficiando Just wish it were less contrived and manipulative; otherwise pretty good 3 stars
8/16/08 Clackity Clack An example of how to take a good story and ruin it. 1 stars
7/26/08 Caloline Erm ... Lola did not see and know who attacked her. This was pretty clear. 5 stars
6/14/08 Melissa Stinchcomb I expected this movie to be better than it was. It jumped around too much.Ended badly. 3 stars
6/11/08 Jayson What was the fuss about? 3 stars
5/03/08 Calllie If you like historical romance this is the movie for you. Touching story and performances 5 stars
3/31/08 Butt waaaay overrated. Highly contrived schoolboy script. Watch Casablanca instead. 2 stars
3/21/08 Rollie It's rare when a chamber drama can function this well as an art-house picture. Great movie 5 stars
2/13/08 Ming Great love story...I enjoy watching it...Too bad its a sad ending 5 stars
2/12/08 Xavier Roca-Ferrer Utter rubbish! 1 stars
2/10/08 styace very shallow character studies . not enough depth to make me feel how i should have . 1 stars
2/01/08 earthangel Really lousy movie. What a waste! I agree with Butterfly about Eat Keira Eat 1 stars
1/30/08 Alistair Heartbreakingly beautiful and hauting -it grows in impact for days after 5 stars
1/21/08 diane livingston painfully boring, pointless 1 stars
1/20/08 Julie Movie was terrible. First time I was tempted to walk out of a movie before the end. 1 stars
1/19/08 maryjane good but not the best. still made me cry though 4 stars
1/19/08 orpy Made me want to read the book 3 stars
1/17/08 Buttley I liked it, it wasn't Best Picture good but I can see why they'd nominate it. Eat Keira Eat 4 stars
12/26/07 jeanne You soul-less pigs - Stick to "Knocked Up" THIS is a brilliant film, soaring and wrenching. 5 stars
12/09/07 Ole Man Bourbon Overrated and forgettable. Story is contrived and often silly. Good acting. 2 stars
12/08/07 Keystra Williams OVERRRATED beyond belief! 1 stars
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  07-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Mar-2008



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