DRAMA; 2hr 3min
STARRING: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai
Swept up: McAvoy and Knightley
Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan; Garai and Vanessa Redgrave in later life) is an up-and-coming writer. Briony’s family is rolling in it, which in 1935 England means a glorious country spread and a casual sense of entitlement. Her sensuous older sister, Cecilia (Knightley), meanwhile, has a passionate, push–pull thing for the housekeeper’s bright-spark son, Robbie Turner (McAvoy). As the spies and sponges they are, writers can be dangerous, especially if their impulses overwhelm them. When Briony becomes aware of Cecilia and Robbie’s attraction, she reacts with the vindictiveness of the jealous and the threatened, by implicating Robbie in a lie that will have destructive lifelong consequences.
Based on Ian McEwan's 2001 novel, Atonement is lacquered with intense sentiment and embossed by director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) with a big-budget gold stamp of assurance. Knightley’s angular allure is worth the price of admission. But this is Briony’s journey of conscience — since she is the one who caused it, after all — and what a grievous, pitiless undoing it becomes.