Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan

"You can only imagine the truth"

There are films which makes you wish you read the book first to get a better grip on the characters. But having said that, if I came across this novel by Ian McEwan in the bookstore, I'd read the synopsis then pass on it. Generally, stories set in a certain era don't capture my fancy. So never having read the book but knowing of the story and the rave reviews its movie adaptation got, I was curious to see what the buzz was all about.

So as much as I would like to compare or make a fair analysis of the movie based on how well it was adapted from the novel, I can't. In the same manner, I cannot write a fair review without revealing some spoilers from the film. Much to my chagrin since I am of the school of thought that movie reviews need to be spoiler free as much as possible.

This movie with its jumpy flashbacks had the tone of a theatrical play where the camera zooms into just one centralized scene. The interior scenes with its cardboard color gave this effect. Especially a specific sequence in the hospital where Briony, a nurse during the war consoles a dying French soldier. While its outside shots on the other hand had vast wide expanse of the lush English countryside and war devastated areas in focus. The sometimes bleak cinematography contributed to the general tone of a tragic ill fated romance. The musical score was a play on the various sounds of a tapping typewriter. It added some air of mystery to the convoluted plot. I can still hear that clanking sound in my head.

It is in the different versions of the plot where this ambitious film succeeds. The story line is a bit blurry between what really happened to the main characters as opposed to its fictional happy ending invented by the author, Briony as penance and atonement for her past mistakes.

The point of no return for me wasn't the tragic ill fated romance of Cee and Robbie. Neither was it the scene where you try to guess who really committed the 'crime' against Lola. Rather it was what really motivated Briony to accuse Robbie of perpetrating that act. It is that scene in the film where you put on your thinking cap and analyse it over and over. You are faced with numerous thoughts questioning Briony's real motive. Was she jealous of her sister's romance? Was she plotting against Robbie for spurning her? Was she merely an innocent child? Or did she imagine the whole situation? Did she misinterpret the act, irrationally? The fact remains that it is in these various line of questioning where the movie made its biggest impact for me, anyway. The best solution to these endless speculation would of course be to read the book. But as I mentioned earlier I have no plans of reading the book.

So based merely on the movie I'd say it was well made. You just have to pay close attention to the storyline as it evolves not necessarily in a linear manner. It is well cast with Keira Knightley in a good believably mature role. Her chemistry with James McAvoy was refreshing and genuine. Yet much as I admired James McAvoy in his role in "The Last King of Scotland". I found him rather rigid in some scenes in "Atonement". I don't know if it was some methodical acting technique on his part where he would pause and appear wooden in some scenes or it was really required of him from the director. I wasn't impressed with his acting in this film. The young girl Saoirse Ronan who portrays Briony Tallis was stoic and creepy. Her pale demeanor disguising a rather complex character. She was quite perfect for the role, no wonder she was nominated in the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the BAFTA (to name a few) in the Best Supporting Actress category.

The film based on a novel about a controversial book deserves to be seen more than once. If only to get a better understanding of what transpired for real and what was merely the figment of an active imagination of a desperate author. An author whose idea of atonement for her past sins was to write an autobiographical book based on her experiences. Inserting some fictional lines for a happily ever after ending for her characters. Don't you wish life was that easy that we can just write off our past indiscretions by writing ourself a happy ending?

4 popcorn buckets:

Sean Hood said...

Read the Book! You'll be glad you did.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...

Thanks for the tip, Sean Hood. I figure that would be the appropriate solution to the numerous questions I have about the film.

Now if only I can find the time to read.

Wil said...

I didn't even realize that the lead actor in Atonement was the guy in Last King of Scotland. Must've been the Scottish accent.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...


I first saw James McAvoy in "The Chronicles of Narnia" as a fawn so I was surprised he has legs pala. hehehe

Just kidding.

He does have a way of reinventing himself so unless you follow his career you won't notice his different roles. I love his Scottish accent! :)


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