Atonement (film)

Atonement
Atonement UK poster.jpg
Domestic Prints Poster
Directed byJoe Wright
Produced byTim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Paul Webster
Screenplay byChristopher Hampton
Based onAtonement
by Ian McEwan
StarringJames McAvoy
Keira Knightley
Saoirse Ronan
Romola Garai
Vanessa Redgrave
Music byDario Marianelli
CinematographySeamus McGarvey
Edited byPaul Tothill
Production
company
Distributed byRelativity Media
Release date
  • 29 August 2007 (2007-08-29) (VIFF)
  • 7 September 2007 (2007-09-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country
LanguageEnglish
Budget$30 million[citation needed]
Box office$129.3 million[3]

Atonement is a 2007 romantic war drama film directed by Joe Wright and based on Ian McEwan's 2001 novel of the same name. The film stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Vanessa Redgrave, and chronicles a crime and its consequences over the course of six decades, beginning in the 1930s. It was produced by Working Title Films and filmed in England. Distributed in most of the world by Universal Studios, it was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 7 September 2007 and in North America on 7 December 2007.

Atonement opened both the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival and the 64th Venice International Film Festival, making Wright, at the age of 35, the youngest director ever to open the latter event. A commercial success, the film earned a worldwide gross of approximately $129 million against a budget of $30 million. Critics gave the drama positive reviews, praising its acting performances, its cinematography and Dario Marianelli's score.

Atonement won an Oscar for Best Original Score at the 80th Academy Awards, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Ronan.[4] It also garnered fourteen nominations at the 61st British Academy Film Awards, winning both Best Film and Production Design, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.[5]

Plot

In 1935 England, Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old from a wealthy family. She has just completed writing her first play to mark her brother's homecoming and plans to stage it later that day with her visiting cousins.

Looking out of her bedroom window, she spies on her older sister, Cecilia, and the housekeeper's son, Robbie Turner, on whom Briony has a crush. Cecilia is undressing and dips into the fountain pool; a moment later, she climbs out, her undergarments wet, all while Robbie watches. Cecilia had gone to the pond to fill a vase, Robbie grabbed one of the handles, and it broke. A part fell into the pond, and Cecilia jumped in to retrieve it, but to Briony, it looked as if Robbie had ordered Cecilia to undress and go under the water.

Robbie drafts a series of notes to Cecilia apologizing for the incident, namely breaking the vase and laughing about it. One contains an explicit expression of his sexual desire for her, including the word "cunt": he writes it only as a joke, and it makes him laugh to himself. He writes another, more formal letter, and asks Briony to deliver it. Only after she has gone does he realise he has given her the explicit letter.

Briony reads the letter before giving it to Cecilia. Later, she describes it to her older visiting cousin, Lola, who calls Robbie a "sex maniac". Paul Marshall, a visiting friend of Briony's older brother's and a chocolate magnate, introduces himself to the visiting cousins and appears to be attracted to Lola.

Before dinner, Robbie apologises for the obscene letter, but Cecilia surprises him and confesses her secret love for him. They then to proceed to make passionate love in the library when Briony walks in, and thinks that Cecilia is under attack. Cecilia and Robbie try to pass the incident off.

At dinner, Briony finds that Lola's twin brothers have run away, and Paul calls for a search of the estate grounds. In the course of it, Briony glimpses Lola having sex with a man. She goes to Lola, and they make statements to one another that appear to establish that it was rape perpetrated by Robbie. The belief is sustained during police questioning, and the earlier note is seen as corroborative evidence. Robbie's arrest and imprisonment follow.

About four years later, during World War II, Robbie has been released from prison on condition that he join the army, and is fighting in the Battle of France. Separated from his unit, he is making his way on foot to Dunkirk, all the while thinking of his meeting with Cecilia in London six months earlier: they had renewed their love before she returned to her work as a nurse, and he set off to the French front.

Briony, now 18, has chosen to join Cecilia's old nursing unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London rather than go to the University of Cambridge, because she wants to be of "practical use to society". She writes to her sister, but Cecilia has not forgiven her for lying in the investigation years before.

Robbie, who is falling gravely ill from an infected wound, finally arrives at the beaches of Dunkirk, where he waits to be evacuated.

Later, Briony—who now regrets her lie—learns from a newsreel that Paul Marshall, who owns a factory supplying rations to the British army, is about to be married to Lola. Briony goes to the ceremony, and as the priest asks if anyone objects to the union, she recalls seeing Paul assault Lola. However, she remains silent. As Paul and Lola leave the church, they glance at Briony, but also say nothing.

Afterwards, Briony visits Cecilia to apologise to her directly. She is surprised to find her sister with Robbie, who is in London on leave. Briony apologises for her deceit, but Robbie is enraged that she has still not accepted responsibility for her actions, when soldiers younger than she have died in the war. Cecilia calms him down, and the couple ask Briony to confess and to have the legal record rectified. Briony agrees. However, she also has to tell them that Paul has married Lola. He is now most unlikely to be punished, as Lola will be unable to testify against her husband, and Briony will be regarded as an unreliable witness.

Briony is now elderly and a successful novelist, giving an interview about her latest book that will cap her career; she is now dying of vascular dementia. She says that this autobiographical novel, entitled Atonement, has been very difficult to write, because she did not know how to approach what she had done to Robbie and Cecilia. She has worked on it from the very beginning of her career. She confesses that the scene in the book describing her visit and apology to Cecilia and Robbie was entirely imaginary.

Cecilia and Robbie were never reunited: Robbie died of septicaemia at Dunkirk on the morning of the day he was to be evacuated, and Cecilia drowned months later in the Balham tube station bombing during the Blitz. Briony hopes to give the two, in fiction, the happiness that she robbed them of in real life. The last scene shows an imagined, happily reunited Cecilia and Robbie living on in a house by the sea.

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