035 - Atonement (2007)

Atonement tells the story of a love lost. Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) is part of the upper echelons of society in pre-Second World War England. She lives with her sister, Briony, and mother. They are being visited by their relatives from the North - two twins and their 15-year-old sister, Lola. Cecilia's parents are kind to their servants, and paid for the son of one of their servants - Robbie (James McAvoy) - to go to college, where he now wishes to go on to be a doctor.

A chance sighting by Briony of a sexually charged meeting between Cecilia and Robbie leads to a chain of events that will change all of their lives.

Firstly, as Robbie and Cecilia flirt, they break a valuable vase. Robbie types various drafts of apology, one of which includes an explicit declaration of love. He mistakenly picks this up by mistake and asks Briony to deliver it. Briony reads the letter, and immediately believes Robbie to be a pervert. She passes the letter on to Cecilia, which is the catalyst for an encounter in the library between Robbie and Cecilia which is witnessed by Briony, reinforcing her view of the situation.

Later, the restless twins run away leading the family - including Cecilia's brother Leon and his friend Paul - into the extensive family gardens to look for them. Briony witnesses Lola being raped by a figure, and immediately concludes that it must be Robbie. Once Robbie returns, having found the twins, he is arrested and sent to prison.

The story follows with both himself and Cecilia longing for a reunification of their love.
Wow, so that's one Hell of an introduction, but in order to understand what the rest of the film is about it has to be said!

One of the things that impressed me about the film, was the noises in the background which keep a steady rhythm in time with the music. These noises are from everyday contraptions - for example as Robbie is typing his letter on the typewriter, the typing continues well into the next scene. It is these rhythms that keep the flow of the film between scenes.

Theatrical Release Poster
The range in scenery throughout the film is phenomenal. It begins slowly, in the grand country estate, before following Robbie's adventure through France before arriving in Dunkirk. The scene that greets them on the beaches is just outstanding, and is something that I've never really seen before in a theatrical sense. While there is little fighting - despite it being based around the Second World War - it is easy to gain an understanding of the tragedies that each soldier has faced.

The director, Joe Wright, doesn't make the mistake of telling each story in a mis-match manner. After the split of each protagonist, their stories are told one after the other so it is an easy story to follow.

On the same subject, Wright employs a very clever technique in showing a future scene's consequences before rewinding to the lead up to that very consequence. At the end of the film, this will leave the audience with a sense of bitterness as a happy ending is both invented and ruined at the same time. That said, that only enhances the emotional impact of the film.

Atonement is often compared with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Truth is, I've never seen those. I just thought they were rubbish stories about love and people wearing odd clothes. Having watched Atonement, maybe I'll give them a go.