Writer: Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Ian McEwan
Kiera Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan,
Vanessa Redgrave, Juno Temple
Runtime: 123 minutes
you are looking for another review to tell you how Atonement is the
best adapted, best costumed (and so on) movie of the year,
please stop reading.
I don't disagree with that. I simply feel duty-bound
to tell you why it is
still a bad movie.
is a period piece, set in 1935 and onwards. It follows the life
Tallis (played by three actresses in the course of her life,
Redgrave). We see how her error of judgement
destroys the lives of at least
two other people. She never does
actually 'atone' for her wrong, although
she ultimately finds a way of
telling a second lie, more openly, to do the
best she can in her own
head. Excessively high production values, superlative
acting, and a
generally interesting story, blind to us the moral bankruptcy
of our tale.
A tale that has moral values as its focus. We come out of the
saying how interesting it was. But have accepted complicity in the
errors it purports to address.
Tallis (Kiera Knightley) lives a life of wealth and privilege in her
gothic mansion. She is having a tempestuous affair with Robbie
the housekeeper's son. Cecilia's younger sister, Briony,
is still a child.
But Briony is at that cusp where hormones start to play
havoc. She has been
raised in a typical atmosphere of sexual hypocrisy.
With an imagination informed
more by her precocious skill as an author
and playwright, than any understanding
of humanity, she is only too
ready to believe that most sex is evil. (Sex
from a commoner is probably
worse.) It is not long before some indiscretions
on the part of Cecilia
and Robbie allow Briony to form a wicked picture of
the young man.
Briony witnesses a genuinely horrific sexual act, she makes a
against Robbie. The power structures of wealth and
class soon close ranks
with Briony. She spends the rest of her life not
only screwed up by Victorian
values, but by her own over-arching sense
of guilt for what she has done.
The real victim of the crime - and real
perpetrator - are tidied up as mere
plot loose ends.
have not read the book and cannot comment on whether the original
as hypnotic, glossy - and essentially vacuous. But I am given to
that Ian McEwan is happy with the screen version.