ATONEMENT (Alliance, 2007) D: Joe Wright, w/ James McAvoy, Keira Knightley. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NN
One of Atonement’s merely okay making-of docs makes a point of telling us how faithfully Ian McEwan’s elegant, multi-layered novel has been translated to the screen. Which is true.
On the surface, it’s a straightforward romantic weepie about a young girl who misinterprets what she sees and ruins three lives, including her own. Underneath, it’s a meditation on the need for storytelling and the nature of the storyteller’s mind. The two layers come together in a strong surprise finale that resonates long after the movie ends.
Director Joe Wright moves with understated power and grace through the serenity of an English country house and the horrors of war, stirring our emotions without manipulating them.
As the ill-fated lovers, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy burn with sexual and class tension, but Saoirse Ronan steals the film as the mistaken young girl. Her understated performance and cold blue eyes reveal a world of complicated and conflicting emotion.
EXTRA Director commentary, two making-of docs, deleted scenes. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.