Tuesday, January 22, 2008


"I love you. I'll wait for you. Come back. Come back to me. " ~Keira Knightley, in Atonement

Man, I was disappointed in this movie. I went to see it yesterday, on my day off from school, and from the movie trailer and the Golden Globe for Best Picture and the rave reviews, I expected to be blown away.

I wasn't.

If you watch the trailer, you'll know the "secret" - it isn't really difficult to figure out. The younger sister sees "something," is a typical 13 year old brat, and lies to her parents and the police about what she thinks she sees. So, okay, I can deal with that, even though the super-suspenseful music throughout the 2-hour film keeps you thinking that maybe there's something you missed, maybe there will be this grand other secret revealed at the very end.

There isn't.

Interestingly enough, the part I found most intriguing was the final scene. I won't give it away, but it is a commentary on why novelists write - and why they write fiction, rather than retell the truth. The truth, and honesty, is boring and predictable and unforgiving and unchangeable, and often hopeless as well. So novelists create different versions of life for their characters, different adventures, and they give their characters a happy ending because life won't.

Not a very uplifting message, perhaps, but the movie isn't uplifting. And some may see that final statement as a negative mark on authors in general, but I found it the most intriguing and honest part of the movie.

Other negatives: The love story isn't fleshed out, and so it's difficult to identify with or feel compassion for either main character when they're torn apart by The Big Lie. The little girl who tells the lie is an interesting character, but she comes across as bratty and unrepentant, even though her atonement is supposed to be the focus of the film. Finally, there's a sweeping war scene on the beach in France, all death and destruction, which is effective but goes on WAY TOO LONG. I was sitting there thinking, "What does this have to do with the rest of the plot?" Not much, as it turns out.

On the bright side, the movie is beautifully shot, with lush landscape, and the one sex scene is hot. (James McAvoy, as the doomed hero, is easy on the eyes, no doubt.) The film also makes a good point about perspective, about how different people view the same event from multiple vantage points. As a result, it's sometimes impossible to find out the "truth," whatever the truth really is.

I give "Atonement" 3.5 stars.


Marianne Arkins said...

So, I don't even know what this story is about. Evidently I live under a rock. The only movie currently on my radar is "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything".

Yes... the joy of being a mom.

You can tell me the big secret, cuz now I'm dying to know.

Sorry it was such a disappointment.

BethRe said...

Well I really wanted to see it maybe I'll wait until video

Sarita Leone said...

I wanted to see this movie but it doesn't sound like it's worth the trouble. I'll wait for the DVD, then sit in my jammies and watch it.

It did just get nominated for an Academy Award. Best Picture.

Different strokes, maybe?

I'm still waiting to watch it in my jammies. :)

windycindy said...

Hi, I have heard both good and bad about this particular movie! I didn't think it did as well as they suspected at the "Golden Globes!"
I guess one never knows until seeing a movie and like you said, everyone's perspective is different. Thanks,Cindi

Dru said...

Thanks for the review. This was not a movie I had planned on seeing.

Count me as another one who wants to know the secret.

BookGal said...

I actually read the book last year so I knew the whole story when I walked into the movie. Your review confirms something for me. The movie doesn't have the emotional impact of the book. I wondered how someone who didn't know the story would react. Thanks for sharing.

Allie Boniface said...

Bookgal, I'm thinking I should really read the book. I'm sure (I hope) it's more emotionally gripping than the movie was.