Beautiful story makes ‘Atonement’ for slow beginning, receives nominations

Leia Karimul Bashar

Although much of “Atonement” takes place on battlegrounds during World War II, the movie is a romantic drama at heart.

The film tells the story of two young lovers, Cecelia, played by Keira Knightley, and Robbie, played by James McAvoy. Cecelia’s 13-year-old sister Briony, played by Saoirse Ronan, has a crush on Robbie and she becomes jealous of Cecelia’s relationship with him. The imaginative girl convinces herself that Robbie is a dangerous man with uncontrollable sexual impulses and accuses him of a rape he did not commit. Based only on Briony’s testimony, Robbie is sent to prison for several years before he gets out by agreeing to join the army.

By the time she is 18 Briony, now played by Romola Garai, realizes the enormous pain she caused Robbie and Cecelia with her false accusation, and she attempts to write Cecelia several letters of apology. But Cecelia, who always believed in Robbie’s innocence, is angry at her sister and ignores the letters. Undeterred, Briony decides to do whatever is necessary to atone for her sins.

Admittedly, “Atonement” gets off to a slow start, but it steadily evolves into a hauntingly beautiful tale about penance and forgiveness. Joe Wright, who directed the impressive 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” achieves an equally remarkable feat with this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel.

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who sees it that the film tops many critics’ must-see lists for 2007. It recently won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and it has been nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

During one point in “Atonement,” there is an incredible five-minute scene that takes place on a battlefield – filmed in one long shot by Wright – which truly must be seen to be believed. Much of the artistic value can only be fully appreciated on the big screen, so definitely see it while it is still in theaters.