Atonement (Widescreen) [DVD] (2008) James McAvoy; Keira Knightley; Joe Wright
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Actors: Brenda Blethyn - Harriet Walter - James Mcavoy - Keira Knightley - Saoirse Ronan. Director: Joy Wright. Format: DVD. Runtime: 123 Mins. Language: English. Subtitle: English Subtitles. Region code: Region 1 (United States Canada Bermuda U.S. territ
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I am reminded of the meddlesomeness of a woman in my recent experience who gossiped too much, and who aborted an innocent but deep and significant friendship, and hurt also another person in such a way that was entirely unnecessary. The worst of it is what she did to the friends. They no longer are friends, but two broken apart halves, and God only knows if they will ever be together again.
Wow, I won't give anything away, but turn on the spiggots...just like in the theater that many years ago, I could not stop crying; it is sad and cruel and evokes many feelings in the people who see it.
I am not saying not to see it. It is incredibly well done. Just know what it is.
This might be one of the best adaptations of a novel I have seen. And the concluding section where Brioni, near the end of her life (and played by the magnificent Vanessa Redgrave), sits down for a TV interview to explain her "atonement" was a masterful reinterpretation of what was more of an interior monologue in the novel. In some ways, visualizing what really happened to the lovers versus the "better ending" Brioni gave them in her novel made the multi-layered tragedy even more devastating.
I know this kind of film isn't everyone's cup of tea, but for me it's exhilarating when a filmmaker pushes the boundaries of standard Hollywood fare and succeeds. This isn't a "feel good" movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's a bit distressing reading comments from those who hated the movie. Some resented the repetition of scenes from different perspectives--but that was the point: we each see things differently based on many variables, sometimes with devastating results. I'm amazed to read those who wanted more "atonement" than they got. For them, I suspect, Brioni needed to do penance like some medieval nun, but how does one atone for "innocently" ruining loved ones' lives other than to live with the guilt and right it as best as possible by devoting your singular talent over the course of your adult life to give your sister the happier ending she deserved--in art at least, if not in life?
I like mindless, entertaining movies like everyone else. But I also, occasionally, like to see movies that require me to be a more active participant, that challenge me to think in different ways, that touch my emotions in sometimes unpleasant ways. My dear sister, for instance, won't see any movie that "might make me sad." What I find troubling about some of the criticism of Atonement is that some impatient viewers not only didn't "get it;" they seem to resent the fact that the movie didn't allow them to be passive recipients of entertainment. That's sad.
A plus of the DVD/blu-ray edition of this movie is the bonus materials. I'm always intrigued to see scenes that were ultimately cut from the final release and the rationale for doing so. And it's always interesting to see how some powerful scenes were accomplished technically--like the 360-degree pan of Normandy beach (which another reviewer here didn't like because it "wasn't how it really happened." Arrgh). Despite it's immense sadness, this is a movie I will watch repeatedly over the years.
All the cast does their job well. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are very believable as the films romance that is ripped apart by the jealously and anger, or maybe confusion, of a child named Briony. Briony is played in the film at three different stages of her life by three different actresses. As much I like the performances of the romantics leads, the film's three best performances are all of the character Briony. It's real a feat to be seen how seamless the character transfers from one actress to another. In a way the film is more about Briony, what she did and the guilt that follows, than about anything else.
This film takes you from an affluent family's estate, to the evacuation of Dunkirk, to war hospital, all wonderfully stages and superbly shot, and laced with a terrific score. It's a journey that feels very fresh compared to many other more cliché filled romantic dramas out there. The ending is particularly powerful and surprising, though to say more than that would be irresponsible of me. It's definitely a must see.
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