Andy Bockelman: ‘Atonement’ a stunning drama |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Atonement’ a stunning drama

— Featuring a virtual whirlwind of emotions and a particularly gorgeous and ornate production design is the beautifully heartrending period piece “Atonement.”

In 1935 Britain, the prominent Tallis family’s youngest daughter Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is 13 years old and struggling with the trials of growing up. This is only made more complicated when she sees Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of her family’s maid (Brenda Blethyn), making advances on her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley).

Briony is quite fond of Robbie herself, and is unsure what to make of this until fate plays its hand even further, leading her to jump to all kinds of conclusions about Robbie’s nature.

When she comes across an unspeakable act, she unjustly implicates Robbie as the perpetrator and within the timeframe of mere hours she has completely destroyed his life and forever ruined her relationship with her sister. As years pass, the three of them experience greatly different repercussions from this incident.

McAvoy is exceptional as Robbie, who is pushed into military service after being imprisoned for four years. His love for Cecilia is all that keeps him sane as he trudges through body-littered French battlefields of World War II. It may be because of the character’s stoic (and later passive-aggressive) nature, but Knightley does not appear to have the greatest comprehension of Cecilia’s mindset. Her depiction still works well, although one gets the feeling that it could be just a smidgen better.

Conversely, Ronan is astounding as the young girl who wreaks utter havoc on the lives of those she loves without even realizing it. The teen actress’s Oscar nomination is certainly an indication of other fine work to come.

Romola Garai deserves just as many accolades for her role as an older, wiser Briony who is severely weighted down with guilt about her childhood actions, and also horror-struck by her first encounters with the real world.

Vanessa Redgrave also makes an appearance within the film’s final moments as an elderly Briony to contemplate how the aftereffects of the nasty episode have distressed her conscience for years.

Based off of Ian McEwan’s novel, the film is a writer’s bliss.

The inclusion of clacking typewriter keys in strategic points of the musical score adds an air of dramatic action to the already gripping narrative. We eventually discover the importance of paying attention to details when it becomes evident that the entire story is told from the perspective of Briony, a lifelong authoress, and by the conclusion, not everything may be crystal clear for those who neglected to note certain elements.

Even as imperative as the storyline is, director Joe Wright employs a great degree of visual stimuli, from the costume design to the cinematography, both of which are up for the Academy Award. One specific scene set during Robbie’s time in Dunkirk is marvelously done, and a perfect display of the movie’s epic tone.

“Atonement” is a stunning drama that elicits a tumultuous amount of passion from its characters, and gives its viewers something to talk about for days.

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