My Rating: ****
Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightly, Saoirse Ronan
Directed by Joe Wright
The trailer for "Atonement" protrays it a sweeping and stuffy, Masterpiece Theatre-esque romance. Sure there are romantic parts, but it's more of an anti-romance. The movie is more like the Romantic novels of the early 1800's where the writer abandons reality and celebrates fantasy. And that could be the theme of Atonement. Also, expect "Atonement" to deservingly get many awards and when you see the movie, you'll know why. Any who, the film's first 45 minutes can be called "Sex, lies and typewriters". Briory Tallis (played by 13 year old Saoirse Ronan) is a budding playwright, whose imagination and curiosity brings out the best in her. But when she sees Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) the caretaker, make an unwanted advance on her older sister, Cecilia, she becomes suspicious of Robbie. Well, in reality, both Robbie and Cecilia, have a moment, that is not negative, but filled with sexual tension and some humour. When Robbie brainstorms an apology note, he writes a word seen but never spoken - cunt. He then scribbles the real apology note but takes the profanity note and tells Briory to give it to Cecilia. Oops. Briory now is confident that Robbie is a sex fiend, and when she walks in on Robbie and Cecilia making love on the bookcase, she believes that Robbie is assaulting Cecilia. Oh boy. Then Briory's ginger twin cousins runaway leading to a search, and Briory finds the twins' ginger sister being raped. So she thinks. And so she turns in Robbie believing he had done it, destroying his and Cecilia's lives. 3 years later, Robbie is in the army, fighting in France, and Cecilla's a nurse, wishing her love would come back. That's where I will stop with movie since the next hour is filled with many turns and spectacular twists. The performances are stellar, and Joe Wright's direction is a marvel. Check out the scene where Robbie wanders around Dunkirk, where the famed evacuation from France took place. A 5 minute single take manages to capture his own personal hell, and Joe Wright's direction makes "Atonement" not a soapy romance, but an art film which would make Jean-Luc Godard proud. "Atonement" is classic film making at it's best. Nothing is wrong here and "Atonement" is one of 2007's best films. But the question raised by the film is this: can one achieve atonement by imagination and art? You be the judge when you see a 70 year old Briory (Vanessa Redgrave) give a heartbreaking monologue on the fate of the characters. It's tragic. But what can you do? Go with the Hollywood ending? If so, get real, cause reality is far too harsh for fantasy.