Love's Laboured Lost
In the sweltering summer of 1945 friends and family are gathering at the country home of the Tallis family. It is there that 13 year old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) harbours a crush on Robbie (James McAvoy) who grew up with her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). But Briony harbours jealousy as well as it is clear that Robbie and Cecilia are sweet on one another, that is when Briony claims that Robbie is guilty when one night her cousin Lola (Juno Temple) is raped leading to Robbie's arrest.
There is a scene in "Atonement" where Robbie decides to type a letter of apology to Cecilia over what happened at the fountain. This scene which flits between Robbie struggling to come up with the right words whilst in another room Cecilia is getting herself ready for the evening's dinner and highlights everything that drove me mad about "Atonement" yet I suspect probably delivered everything which some people loved. The close up shot of Robbie placing the needle on a record, the sense of heat as he stretches out his leg in the sunlit room, the shots of Cecilia making sure her face is perfect in the mirror with us seeing the reflective shot. Technically it is beautifully put together but for me it is laborious and over the top, drawing out something which could have been done with a mix of heat and power. It is the same later on when the story moves on to the war and in the middle of destruction the men are singing "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind"; it is a beautifully crafted scene and visually impressive but it doesn't ring true.
I started off with mention of those scenes because whilst many rate "Atonement" it didn't do it for me and I found it over done, needless scenes included for reasons beyond my comprehension other than to show of the movies style which in fairness I am sure is right up some people's streets. And that is a shame as this two part story of romance and betrayal is good once you wade through the numerous layers of production which are not necessary. In fact whilst many love this version of "Atonement" I would love for someone to remake it but with a more punchy style, leaving out the close up scenes of people kissing in the soft light which are incredibly false looking and made worse when dialogue is tossed in to the mix.
That brings me to the acting and whilst "Atonement" has a very good cast of actors who are all very good their performances in "Atonement" doesn't do it for me and found once again this is a period movie where the actors are too busy trying to act in style rather than trying to make their characters feel real which in turn makes it feel very stilted, as if actors are delivering their lines of dialogue but not always delivering the character's emotion to make it feel right.
What this all boils down to is for me "Atonement" wasn't the great movie that others feel it was although I loved the story, it is just a case that the dramatization and the styling didn't work for me. Having said all of that I reckon if I was in the right mood for overblown, over choreographed romance than it might appeal a little more than it did this time around.