I read the Ian McEwan book awhile ago, and more recently read some critics who claimed that the movie didn’t live up to the book, was a nice attempt, but in the end a failure.
I couldn’t disagree more, and am happy to see it nominated for “Best Picture” Oscar.
The book I found ultimately forgettable, despite how well written it was, and how original and disturbing the story was.
It came across as a very well done romance novel, and before I saw the movie it would have been difficult for me to remember the intricacies of each character’s story and their relationships, besides the three main ones. But even those had faded in the year or two since I’d read it.
The movie will stay with me for a long time. It is so well directed (and shot and edited, which often are the director’s vision and sense of the story), and so well acted, thanks to that direction and the casting, which is the first test of a director.
Is the movie just a well done “romance” genre flick? Not to me. It resonates with the problems caused by the lies and deceptions of our own troubled time and the death and destruction of our own wars, as well as the shattered lives they cause.
But in the end, it’s just one of those incredibly well done Brit flicks that captures the past like it seems no other nation’s films can do as well. Maybe because the glory that was England and its empire are in the past, and what it means to be British now is so different than what it meant for centuries.
And I say this as the descendant of persecuted and oppressed Irish ancestors, as recent as my grandparents, under those same Brits. But for all their history of brutal oppression of others, they still make great period costume films.
And who looks better in period costumes than Keira Knightly? Nobody.
She did a terrific job, as did everyone else in the film, including James McAvoy as the male lead and Saoirse Ronan as the catalyst of the film’s plot.
But in the end, even though it is almost a cameo, a very small part, Vanessa Redgrave does her always impeccable and superior acting job, and as usual, made me want to rise from my seat and give her a standing ovation.
Friends have compared ATONEMENT to THE ENGLISH PATIENT, a film I also was impressed with at the time, with terrific acting in it as well. But the difference is—warmth. There was passion in THE ENGLISH PATIENT, but not enough warmth. The Brits in it, for my taste, were cold even in the throes of romance.
Maybe that’s just Ralph Fiennes. But Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, under Joe Wright’s direction, are as warm as humans can be, and as hot as two beautiful young people in love and passionately attracted to each other can be.
Considering the crowd scenes, the scene changes, the number of principal characters and the brilliant camera work—angles and movement and painterly use of close ups and cutting—this movie may be the most impressive film achievement of 2007.
At least for me, still feeling its impact as I write this.