Atonement: Joe Wright's Stirring Adaptation

The celebrated English theatre and film director Richard Eyre turns 76 today. Notes on a Scandal, The Dresser, King Lear, The Children Act and Iris are some of his most renowned films. Although he was working on Atonement for a year, and wrote three drafts with the screenwriter Chris Hampton. Richard left the project to work on Notes on a Scandal but he is credited as the executive producer of the film.

Atonement: Joe Wright's Stirring Adaptation Atonement: Joe Wright's Stirring Adaptation Source : Poster


A little girl's ornery lie and its severe ramifications are at the center of this sumptuous adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2001 bestseller by the same name. Atonement is set in the 1930s-40s. Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old played by Saoirse Ronan in her first major role. She is dealing with things far beyond her scope of understanding. And inevitably so, it is too much to deal for her limited understanding. An epic, flamboyant, and an affecting film, Atonement is brilliantly executed poignant love-tale which unfolds during a turbulent war where the begrudging eye of the third uncouples the two fervent lovers.


Director Joe Wright packs his film in the shining luxury of a palatial English estate dipped in the spirituous romance fledging amid Briony's sister Cecelia (Keira Knightley) and their housekeeper's son, Robbie (James McAvoy). Author Ian McEwan has the ability to pick an occasion and squeeze it to its bare essence which is truly comprehensive. The young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan successfully portrays Briony as a spoilt and deceptive teenager who accomplishes to strike fear out of her naivete and certainty. As she parades through the estate in an intimidating manner, she forces you to admire the confidence in that blue-eyed stare. Keira Knightley is breathtaking as ever in her second film with director Joe Wright after Pride and Prejudice which was the first. The sexual tension between McAvoy and Knightley is swooning as the couple negotiates on their confessions of love. Their separation hurts the viewers as much as them is an ode to their magnetic on-screen chemistry.


Atonement's extraordinary qualities outweigh any quibbles. The disquiet of sin, guilt, perception and truth are deftly explored in a rare rendition where the film is meritorious to stand next to its revered source. It is "an elegant and sophisticated film, one that never condescends or shirks from the complexity of the novel and its grand themes - war, love, sex, memory, betrayal, redemption - but it's also strangely unfeeling. Atonement is unyielding in its focus on the character and theme. The scope and detailing of the universe imagined by McEwan, including the historical context-all are beyond the grasp of the film which is severely limited by its technical nature of the medium, but it does enable it to capture the lively spirit of the novel and make the exchanges accessible, apparent, penetrative and lasting.


Atonement offers Joe Wright a great deal of scope to show off his visual prowess as a director in the amazing 4 ½ minute shot of the Dunkirk evacuation. Seamus McGarvey's exquisite cinematography, Sarah Greenwood's meticulous production design, Pau Tothill's precise editing, Jacqueline Durran's understated costume design and Dario Marianelli's striking score all blend together for a stirring ‘film' that is also a commendable adaptation.


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