Having a change from Monday Mobile moments to drop in the odd movie now and then. Saturday night is movie night here and Phil and I take it in turns to choose the movie we watch. Due to our being underwhelmed with the new Dunkirk movie – see review HERE– Phil wanted to redress the balance this week, by watching Atonement, a 2007 movie we hadn’t seen in a long while. It’s directed by Joe Wright and based on Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel of the same name. I half remembered the plot, and also thought I’d not really liked the movie the first time round, but I have since changed my mind, as this time round I really enjoyed it, and found a lot in it to think about. The story starts in the 1930’s, plays out through the 2nd world war and ends 60 years later. The main characters are Cecilia played by Kiera Knightly, Robbie played by James McAvoy and Briony played in turn by Saoirse Ronan as a 13yr old, then Romola Garai as a young woman, and finally by Vanessa Redgrave as an old lady.
I won’t go too much into the plot, it’s too good for spoilers, but very basically Cecilia and Briony are sisters in a wealthy English family. Robbie is the son of their housekeeper, and as her husband has run off with some floozy, the master of the house has paid for Robbie to go to university, and he now wants to become a doctor. Robbie & Cecilia are in love, Briony is jealous, as she has a crush on Robbie, and after catching Cecilia & Robbie in flagrante delicto, goes on to do something that impacts devastatingly on their lives.
The story telling in the movie is spot on, and the acting superb. I am not a huge fan of Kiera Knightly but she plays the quintessential English young lady to perfection, and James McAvoy captures Robbie’s stoic character really well, but the kudos goes to Saoirse Ronan who is unforgettable as the young, confused girl who commits the spiteful act. She was deservedly nominated for best supporting actress at the Oscars for her performance. What I loved was the cinematography, and the locations. The house used for the movie is Stokesay Court in Shropshire. It is owned by Caroline Magnus, who had been bequeathed it by her aunt, Jewell Magnus-Allcroft, the granddaughter of John Derby Allcroft, who originally built it. It was in need of restoration when she came to it. There was no furniture and the roof leaked. The movie company transformed the house, and put in all the furniture and removed it again at the end of filming, but also decorated the house, and left behind the bookcases that were used in the naughty scene in the film, and a few other items. Since Atonement was released Ms Magnus has been showing regular tour groups around the house. They can look in the bedrooms used by Cecilia and Briony and look out of the windows at the fountain and the gardens.
Part of the movie concerns the British retreat from Dunkirk, and the scenes here were filmed in my neck of the woods, on Redcar beach, which was transformed out of all recognition. In the picture below you can just see the power station (recently closed down) on the right edge of the shot.
One of the scenes was a 5 minute uninterrupted camera shot, wonderfully choreographed and filmed, and kicks the Christopher Nolan version in the new Dunkirk movie out of the park. The horrendousness of it is palpable in atonement, where it was neat and tidy in the Dunkirk version.
As well as the main characters, Brenda Blethyn as Robbie’s mother, Benedict Cumberbatch as Paul Marshall, a chocolate millionaire, and Harriet Walter as the mother of Briony and Cecilia had small but important parts, and were totally believable.
The director Joe Wright did a masterly job with this movie, bringing out quality performances from all involved. His attention to detail and the cinematography were stunning, perfectly accompanied by Dario Marianelli’s unique score, and the movie garnered several awards at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. I have not read the book, but Phil has, and reckons this is one of the rare occasions where a movie surpasses the book. Whether it does or not doesn’t really matter, as a stand alone movie you don’t get much better than this. Sumptuous, beguiling and harrowing, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth your time for sure.