Remarkable sense of time and place

(Canscene) — Atonement stands alone for me, since I have not read the book on which it is based. It was written by Ian Mc Ewan, winner of the Man Booker Prize for a previous novel and shortlisted for the same in Atonement in 2001.

I have yet to read the book which drew raves in both its English original and the many translations, but I found the film a totally satisfying experience not only from the viewpoint of story and performances but because of its mesmerizing recreation of time and place from the late 30s to the present.

At its opening, set in an affluent British estate in the late 30s we’re introduced to social butterfly Cecilia and the housekeeper’s son Robbie between whom a growing chemistry is emerging They have aroused the envy of Briony, Cecilia’s younger sibling whose malignant design lands the young man in prison.

Oh no! Is this going to be another repetition of the “jealous child bears false witness” theme? Fear not, the story takes off with a life of its own and transports us to war-ravaged London during the Blitz, the beach at Dunkirk, immediate post war days and the present.

Having lived through those times I can attest to the uncanny authenticity director Joe Wright and production designer Sarah Greenwood have given the production. The bizarre happenings on the beach at Dunkirk as British troops wait to be evacuated reflect the nightmarish quality of a tragic episode in British military history.

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James McAvoy: Robbie on the beach at Dunkirk

As the star-crossed lovers, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy breathe real life into their roles, and Vanessa Redgrave who appears at the film’s ending as the now elderly Briony is just wonderful.
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