Based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, I longed to like this pic, not only because of what was a great cast, but I’m a huge fan of period pieces set in the 1920s and 1930s.
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Atonement is not only a story of betrayal but a lesson in how the mistakes of adolescence can haunt you for the rest of your life. Saoirse Ronan plays Briony Tallis, a 13 year old school girl born into the landed gentry, who has a crush on the housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy). Unfortunately for young Briony, he only has eyes for her older sister Cecelia (Kiera Knightly), who eventually returns the affections. Staying with them at their stately home is their cousins Lola Quincey and her two brattish brothers, whose parents are going through a divorce. Up turns family friend Paul Marshall (the wonderfully named Benedict Cumberbatch) and thus the scene is set for intrigue and false accusation.
Why doesn’t the pic work? Well, for a start it is over long and there are long pieces that could have been cut altogether or explained in a better way. Some of the clumsiness can be forgiven when the end of the movie comes around (which I won’t go into because it will lead to spoilers), but that doesn’t atone for the overall stagnation. I don’t know whether it was the direction or script, or a combination of both. It seemed there was something missing – maybe a bit more editing. That being said, the cast do quite well with what they have, and the cinematography is top notch.
Worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Pic, and winner in the same category for the BAFTA’s, and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama? Not even close.