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