Movie review: “Atonement”

We saw the movie “Atonement” at the Labia on Orange tonight. The movie theatre was absolutely packed – perhaps because all the people who had come to see the movie last night (Friday), couldn’t watch it because the power went out!

The movie is based on a book by Ian McEwan, and it is mainly set in England before World War II, as well as in France during the War.

The three leading roles are played by Keira Knightley (who is just too beautiful as the wealthy and elegant Cecilia Tallis), James McAvoy (as the dashing Robbie, the son of a servant in the household), and a combination of Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave as Briony, the younger sister of Cecilia, at various ages.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the central event of the movie is an encounter between Robbie and Cecilia, which is observed by Briony. The young girl misinterprets this encounter, setting in motion a series of events and culminating in a lie that has tragic consequences. This leads to Robbie being sent away to prison, and then to fight in France as a soldier for the British army. In the meantime, an older Briony has followed in the footsteps of her estranged sister Cecilia to become a nurse at a hospital in London – her very hard and sometimes frightening work as a nurse for the war wounded being a form of ‘atonement’ for her lie.

I found the movie very sad. Exquisitely filmed, though, with an outstanding performance by Saoirse, for which she has deservedly received an Oscar nomination.

I suppose that the ‘moral’ of the story, if one wanted to simplify it, is that a lie can have devastating consequences and tear apart a family. In this case, the confession did not happen, and thus neither did the forgiveness, redemption and restoration of harmonious balance that the heart instinctively yearns for. The soul loves the truth.

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For other movies we’ve watched in February, click on:

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