Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers. Photo by Greg Williams / Courtesy of Focus Features
Joe Wright, the BAFTA Award-winning director of Pride & Prejudice, has reunited with his filmmaking team and his Academy Award-nominated actress, Keira Knightley, for another classic British romance, Atonement, starring James McAvoy (BAFTA Award nominee for The Last King of Scotland) opposite Ms. Knightley.
Christopher Hampton (Academy Award winner for Dangerous Liaisons) has written the screenplay adaptation of Ian McEwan’s best-selling 2002 novel Atonement.
Filmed on location in the U.K., the story of Atonement spans several decades. In 1935, 13-year- old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion.
On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony’s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (Mr. McAvoy), the educated son of the family’s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony’s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Ms. Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust.
When it does, Briony who has a crush on Robbie is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever.
Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) gives Ian McEwan’s bestselling novel a sumptuous treatment for the screen that should come to be regarded as one of the defining films of the epic romantic drama.
Indeed, everything about this film stems from those three words: there is little here that is not epic, romantic, and dramatic, and Atonement is a film that masterfully expresses the overarching sense of adventure and emotion that such stories are meant to convey.
In this instance, the story centers around the love story of highborn Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) and housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy, in a star-making turn), in England shortly before World War II. Despite their class differences, they are powerfully attracted to each other, and just as their relationship begins Robbie is tragically forced away due to false accusations from Cecilia’s younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). She has a crush on Robbie, too, and after reading a private letter he sent to Cecilia, and then witnessing the first expression of their mutual love but mistaking it for mistreatment, her resentment grows until it leads to her telling the lie that will send Robbie away.
Soon World War II breaks out; Robbie enlists and is posted to France, Cecilia is a nurse in London, and Briony, now age 18 and aware of what she has done, tries to atone for her actions--but none of them will be able to get back what they have lost. Knightley and McAvoy are perfectly cast as the young star crossed lovers, and the young Ronan is particularly impressive, but it’s clear that the real star of this film is the director.
Wright allows Atonement to revel in every moment of its story and each scene is compelling in its own way, but that now famous extended shot with Robbie on the beach at Dunkirk-- filmed in one take and sure to be considered one of the great long tracking shots in film history-- is the most memorable moment in this remarkable film.
Atonement is an excellent example of what can happen when a great book meets great filmmaking. This is one that is not to be missed. --Daniel Vancini, Amazon.
Film Entertainment Magazine
Filmed on location in the U.K., the story of Atonement spans several decades. In 1935, 13-year- old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. Watch movie trailer video clip.