I finally saw Atonement, one of the Oscar nominated movies this weekend. It is such a beautifully shot movie. Every scene was filmed perfectly and Keira Knightley must be one of the most beautiful actresses in the past decade to act on screen. (Even though someone should make her eat a hamburger or two because she is very skinny) I also read the book by Ian McEwan and I must say the interpretation to screen was very well done.
This is a very tragic love story because of what someone thinks they see and their actions that set into motion events that will destroy three lives. I also feel that this was very much a fairy tale. We have beautiful princess in love with her beautiful prince and the evil villainess who separates them forever. But the villainess finds redemption and realizes the horrors of what she had done and looks to atone for her sins.
The tragedy is all because of what a thirteen year old girl thinks she sees. Briony has a very active imagination. She loves to write plays and stories and sees the world in a very different way from those around her. It is the summer of 1935 in England, right before World War II. This should be a carefree summer of swimming, playing and enjoying life. Briony has an older sister, Cecilia (Keira) who acts quite worldly. Briony looks up to her older sister and Cecilia treats Briony as any older sister would with their annoying younger sister. Then there is the housekeeper’s son Robbie (James McAvoy) Briony has a crush on Robbie. Robbie humors Briony. Robbie wants Cecilia. Cecilia, even though she acts cold to Robbie, wants him as much as he wants her.
As Briony watches from her bedroom window, she sees a confrontation between Robbie and Cecilia and assumes something is wrong. As we find out what she thinks she sees is misconstrued. This starts the ball rolling. Robbie has been invited to dinner by Briony and Cecilia’s brother. We see him typing away at his typewriter trying to come up with a note to apologize to Cecilia. He decides to have a little fun and types a very sexual graphic and bunt note about what he would like to do to Cecilia. He doesn’t think it will ever be read by anyone and instead writes a more formal note. BUT, by accident Robbie takes the graphic note and hands it to Briony to give to Cecilia. OOOPS!! Briony reads it (even though I can’t understand how at her age she knows what one of the words means) and thinks Robbie is a sex fiend. But she still gives the note to Cecilia who is very intrigued by his blunt words.
Poor Robbie thinks his goose is cooked and when he knocks on the door, Cecilia answers. They both come to an agreement about how they feel for each other in a darkened library. And do they ever- the best scene in the whole movie! Briony comes across them and is shocked by what she sees. This is the final third strike against Robbie and Cecilia. As the night goes on a horrible thing happens to Briony’s older cousin Lola and Briony is right there to blame Robbie.
Because of Briony’s lies and confusion, she destroys any chance at happiness Robbie and Cecilia can have together. Briony’s life is also ruined as you will come to see. Four years go by, Robbie is off fighting in France, Cecilia is a nurse separated from her family and Briony wants to make amends, but can’t. There is tragedy on all ends and these three people will never be carefree or happy ever again. To the very end Briony is the one who tells this tale and you will be crying over her pain and suffering and that of her sister and her young lover, who only had a small moment together in that dark library against the shelves.