Wednesday, February 06, 2008


"I am very, very sorry for the terrible distress that I have caused you. I am very, very sorry..."

Written by: Christopher Hampton

Directed by: Joe Wright

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Keira Knightley

My rating 5/10

Despite being critically revered, Atonement strikes me as yet another film adaptation of a wonderful book that just kind of missed why the book was so wonderful. The film starts off really well. Every bit as sumptuous, sweeping and intriguing and these costume thingies are supposed to be. The plot completely sucked me in and despite Kiera Knightley's posturing and so British it's hardly even British anymore accent I began to get really caught up in the events at hand.

The story starts with young Briony Tallis, a precocious 13 year old who becomes involved in a series of events that end in a fabulous lie that tears apart her sister Cecilia (Knightley) and her lover, the gardener, Robby (McAvoy). The story follows Robby through WWI and Cecilia now working as a nurse, pining for her lost love.But the main character is Briony, growing up and still complately lost in the guilt of what she has done all those years ago.

The story is completely engaging for the first hour as it focusses on the events that led to the scandal. After this however, it seems to decide it wants to be a war movie and focusses on Robby's trek to get back to Cecilia. This is very long-winded and could seriously have been a ten minute interlude, allowing the focus to remain on the interesting story...Briony's guilt.

The film had many problems, mostly the fact that there is no real relationship built between Robby and Cecilia. We get the impression that Cecilia is spoiled and fickle so the relationship never seems to have had a solid base to begin with. This completely destroys any sense of tragedy that the doomed relationship might carry.

Having said that, the film picks up enormously in the final 20 minutes, revealing a very unusual ending, that goes in a very strange an interesting direction. The structure of the story and the themes of the film were fascinating and I think if it had been a little longer and /or left out some of the very decorative war sequences, it may have captured the darkness and beauty of McEwan's story. However, it seems to want too much to be a Merchant Ivory love story and therefore fails to lay the focus where it should be.

- Charlene Lydon 6/2/2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Away From Her

"It's never too late to become what you might have been."

Written & Directed by:
Sarah Polley

Julie Christie
Gordon Pinsent
Olympia Dukakis

My rating: 7/10

Away From Her tells the story of an elderly couple torn apart when the wife Fiona(Julie Christie) develops Alzheimer's Disease. After struggling to deal with it together, they decide she would be better off in a home. Her husband Grant reluctantly agrees to repect the policy of the home and stays away for 30 days to allow her a settling in period. However, during this time, Fiona has forgotten her husband and fallen in love with another man.

There are many things about this film that are remarkable. The most remarkable thing is the beauty of the story. Plain and simple, this is a beautiful story and nothing could possibly effect that. The second remarkable thing is the perfectly written screenplay. Sparse as the dialogue is, the screenplay does a lot with very little and portrays these characters in all their glory. The performances from everyone involved were wonderful and although Julie Christie is winning the awards, each performance is as beautifully tender as hers and make this film a pleasure to watch.

A very admirable thing about this film is how it steers away from trying to be a weepie. It is tragic, it is sad but it sticks to themes of what love and companionship really mean and celebrates Grant's realisation of what she means to him. It is indeed painful to watch him see his wife with another man every day while she ignores him but Grant is a hard man and never crumbles. This is why Gordon Pinsent's performance is so wonderful. He's not getting dramatic scenes and there is no shouting and breaking down. There is regret, sadness and love in his eyes at all times but again, never played for weepiness.

The problem with the film was that first-time director Sarah Polley just didn't have the skill to bring such a delicate screenplay to the screen. To her merit, she made a very good film and I would be delighted to see more from her. However, I couldn't help but feel that, in the hands of someone with more experience, the film could really have touched me profoundly. At times, the film sank into TV-movieland and just needed to be handled a little more deftly. That being said, Polley's screenplay is so beautiful that I feel guilty from detracting from someone so clearly gifted.

I would definitely recommend "Away From Her" to anyone. It is sad, frightening and uplifting, all at the same time and, despite a slight case of "what could have been" I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

- Charlene Lydon 5/2/2008