Atonement (film)

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Atonement
Atonement UK poster.jpg
UK release poster
Directed by Joe Wright
Produced by Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Paul Webster
Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
Based on Atonement
by Ian McEwan
Starring James McAvoy
Keira Knightley
Saoirse Ronan
Romola Garai
Vanessa Redgrave
Music by Dario Marianelli
Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Edited by Paul Tothill
Production
company
Distributed by Focus Features
Universal Pictures
Release date
  • 29 August 2007 (2007-08-29) (VIFF)
  • 7 September 2007 (2007-09-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country

United Kingdom

France
Language English
Budget $30 million[citation needed]
Box office $129.3 million[2]

Atonement is a 2007 British romantic war drama film directed by Joe Wright and based on Ian McEwan's 2001 novel of the same name. The film stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave, and chronicles a crime and its consequences over the course of six decades, beginning in the 1930s. It was produced by Working Title Films and filmed in England. Distributed in most of the world by Universal Studios, it was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 7 September 2007 and in North America on 7 December 2007.

Atonement opened both the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival and the 64th Venice International Film Festival, making Wright, at the age of 35, the youngest director ever to open the latter event. A commercial success, the film earned a worldwide gross of approximately $129 million against a budget of $30 million. Critics gave the drama positive reviews, praising its acting performances, its cinematography and Dario Marianelli's score.

Atonement won an Oscar for Best Original Score at the 80th Academy Awards, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Ronan.[3] It also garnered fourteen nominations at the 61st British Academy Film Awards, winning both Best Film and Production Design, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.[4]

Plot[edit]

In 1935 England, Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old from a wealthy family, she has just completed writing her first play to mark her brother's homecoming and plans to stage it later that day with her visiting cousins.

Looking from her bedroom window, she spies on her older sister, Cecilia, and the housekeeper's son, Robbie Turner, whom Briony has a crush on. Cecilia is undressing and dips into the fountain pond; a moment later, she climbs out, her undergarments wet, all while Robbie watches. Cecilia had gone to the pond to fill a vase that was broken when Robbie grabbed onto one of the handles. A portion of the vase dropped into the pond, and she dived in to fetch it.

Robbie writes several notes to Cecilia apologizing for the incident. One of them has explicit sexual content, confessing his desire for Cecilia, and it makes him laugh at himself, he writes another, formal letter, and asks Briony to deliver it. Only after she has run off to deliver the letter does Robbie realize he had given Briony the explicit one.

Briony reads the letter before giving it to Cecilia. Later, Briony describes it to her older visiting cousin, Lola, who calls Robbie a "sex maniac". Paul Marshall, a visiting friend of Briony's older brother's, introduces himself to the visiting cousins and becomes attracted to Lola.

Before dinner, Robbie apologizes for the rude letter, but Cecilia confesses her love for him, and they make love in the library. Briony walks into the room and is devastated, but Cecilia and Robbie pass it off.

At dinner, Lola's twin brothers go missing. They've left a note saying that they have run away out of boredom, and Paul calls for a search party.

During the search, outside the mansion, Briony catches a glimpse of a man assaulting Lola. Lola could not say who attacked her, as her eyes were covered; in the ensuing investigation, Briony insists she saw Robbie as the assailant with her very own eyes. She looks for the indecent note Robbie had sent Cecilia, and shows it to back up her testimony. Robbie is arrested and imprisoned.

Five years later, during World War II, Robbie is a soldier fighting in the Battle of France, he had agreed to join the army so he could be released from prison. He is making his way on foot to Dunkirk after having been separated from his unit; in a flashback, in London six months earlier, he reunites with Cecilia (who has not spoken with her family since the incident), and they renew their love before he is shipped off to the French front.

Briony, now 18, has joined Cecilia's old nursing corps at St. Thomas's Hospital in London rather than go to the University of Cambridge, because she wants to be of "practical use to society", she writes to her sister, but Cecilia has not forgiven her for lying in the investigation years before.

Robbie, who is falling gravely ill from an infected wound, finally arrives at the beaches of Dunkirk, where he waits to be evacuated.

Sometime later, Briony—who is now starting to repent for her lie—watches a newsreel and learns that Paul Marshall, who owns a factory supplying rations to the British army, is about to be married to Lola. Briony goes to the wedding ceremony, and as the priest asks if anyone objects to the union, she recalls seeing Paul as Lola's real assaulter.

Briony keeps quiet, however, as Paul and Lola leave the church, they briefly glance at Briony but also say nothing.

Afterwards, Briony visits Cecilia to apologise to her directly, she is surprised to see her sister reunited with Robbie, who is briefly on leave from the war.

Briony's apologies are not accepted. Robbie, enraged at her presence, nearly hurts her, but Cecilia calms him down, and the couple instead demands that Briony confess her lie in writing and have the legal records rectified. Briony promises to do so. When she tells them the real assailant was Paul and that he was just married to Lola, Cecilia is disappointed: Paul is now unlikely to be punished, being immune to Lola's testimony as his wife, and with Briony's having become an unreliable witness.

Decades later, the elderly Briony, now a successful novelist, gives an interview about her latest book, an autobiographical novel entitled Atonement, she reveals she is dying of vascular dementia and says this novel will be her last, although she thinks of it also as her first. She confesses that the scene in the book, about her visit and apology to Cecilia and Robbie, was only imagined.

Cecilia and Robbie were never reunited: Robbie died of septicaemia at Dunkirk on the morning of the day he was to be evacuated, and Cecilia drowned months later in the Balham tube station bombing during the Battle of Britain. Briony hopes to give the two, in fiction, the happiness that she robbed them of in real life, the last scene shows an imagined, happily reunited Cecilia and Robbie living on in a house by the sea.

Cast[edit]

  • James McAvoy as Robbie Turner, the son of the Tallis family housekeeper with a Cambridge education courtesy of his mother's employer. McAvoy, who had refused previous offers to work with Wright, was the director's first choice; producers met several actors for the role, including Jake Gyllenhaal,[5] but McAvoy was the only one offered the part. He fitted Wright's bid for someone who "had the acting ability to take the audience with him on his personal and physical journey". McAvoy describes Robbie as one of the most difficult characters he has ever played, "because he's very straight-ahead".[6]
  • Keira Knightley as Cecilia Tallis, the elder of the two Tallis sisters.[6] Originally intended to play 18-year-old Briony, Knightley was the first reported to have landed one of the starring roles in Atonement, having previously worked with Wright on the cinema adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice (2005).[7] With the director and Knightley unable to agree over which character the actress should play, Wright finally decided on Cecilia "because she has none of that Elizabeth Bennet vibe."[7] In preparing for her role, Knightley watched films from the 1930s and 1940s, such as Brief Encounter and In Which We Serve, to study the "naturalism" of the performance that Wright wanted in Atonement.[6]
  • Saoirse Ronan as Briony Tallis, age 13: the younger Tallis sister and an aspiring novelist. 12-year-old newcomer Ronan was not cast until casting director Jina Jay came across her following many unsuccessful auditions around Britain. McEwan called her performance "remarkable": "She gives us thought processes right on-screen, even before she speaks, and conveys so much with her eyes."[6] Ronan received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
  • Romola Garai as Briony Tallis, age 18:[6] Following Abbie Cornish's refusal, backing out due to scheduling conflicts with Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007),[8] she was obliged to adapt her performance's physicality to fit the appearance that had already been decided upon for Ronan and Redgrave. Garai spent much time with Ronan, watching footage of her to approximate the way the younger actress moved.[6]
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Briony Tallis, age 77: Everyone's ideal to play the oldest Briony,[6] Redgrave was the first approached (although she was not cast until Ronan had been found),[9] and committed herself to the role after just one meeting with Wright. She, Ronan and Garai worked together with a voice coach to keep the character's timbre in a familiar range throughout the film.[6]
  • Harriet Walter as Emily Tallis, the matriarch of the family. Both Emily Watson[10] and Kristin Scott Thomas[10] were approached to play the role of Emily Tallis before the role went to Walter.
  • Patrick Kennedy as Leon Tallis, the eldest of the Tallis siblings.
  • Brenda Blethyn as Grace Turner, Robbie's mother and the Tallis family housekeeper.
  • Juno Temple as Lola Quincey, the visiting 15-year-old cousin of the Tallis siblings.
  • Charlie and Felix von Simson as Jackson and Pierrot Quincey, Lola's nine-year-old twin brothers.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Paul Marshall, Leon Tallis' visiting friend.
  • Daniel Mays as Tommy Nettle, one of Robbie's brothers-in-arms.
  • Nonso Anozie as Frank Mace, another fellow soldier.
  • Jérémie Renier as Luc Cornet, a fatally wounded and brain damaged French soldier whom the 18-year-old Briony comforts on his deathbed.
  • Lionel Abelanski as the Frenchman
  • Alfie Allen as Danny Hardman, the Tallis family's handyman
  • Anthony Minghella as the television interviewer in the final scene.

Production[edit]

The film was produced by Working Title Films and filmed throughout the summer of 2006 in Great Britain.[11]

Locations[edit]

Original film set, August 2006; Redcar's beach was the site of the Dunkirk beach sequence and stood in for Bray-Dunes
Seven Sisters cliffs and the coastguard cottages, South Downs National Park

These mainly were:

The other places across London were Great Scotland Yard and Bethnal Green Town Hall, the latter being used for a 1939 tea-house scene, as well as the church of St John's, Smith Square, Westminster for Lola's wedding. Re-enactment of the 1940 Balham station disaster took place in the former Piccadilly line station of Aldwych, closed since the 1990s.

War scenes (in the French countryside) were filmed in Coates and Gedney Drove End, Lincolnshire; Walpole St Andrew and Denver, Norfolk; and in Manea and Pymoor, Cambridgeshire.

Much of the St Thomas's hospital ward interior was filmed at Park Place, Berkshire and exterior at University College London.[6]

All the exteriors and interiors of the Tallis family home were at the house mentioned selected from an old Country Life edition to tie in with the period and pool fountain of the novel,[18] this mansion was built in 1889 commissioned by the glove manufacturer John Derby Allcroft. It remains an undivided family home.

The third portion of Atonement was entirely filmed at the BBC Television Centre, London, the beach with cliffs first shown on the postcard and later seen towards the end of the film was Cuckmere Haven Seven Sisters, Sussex (near to Roedean School, which Cecilia was said to have attended).

Release[edit]

The film opened the 2007 Venice International Film Festival, making Wright, at 35, the youngest director ever to be so honoured.[19] The film also opened the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival.[20] Atonement was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 7 September 2007,[21] and in North America on 7 December 2007. Worldwide distribution was managed by Universal Studios, with minor releases through other divisions.[11]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $129,266,061 worldwide,[2] the film was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 7 September 2007, and grossed £11,557,134. It was also given a limited release in North America on 7 December, and grossed $784,145 during its opening weekend, posting a per-cinema average of $24,504 in 32 cinemas.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Keira Knightley attending the première of Atonement, in Leicester Square, London

The film received positive reviews from film critics, the review site Rotten Tomatoes records that 83% of 196 critics gave the film positive reviews, with a consensus that "Atonement features strong performances, brilliant cinematography and a unique score. Featuring deft performances from James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, it's a successful adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel",[22] on other review sites, Metacritic records an average score of 85%, based on 36 reviews.[23]

In Britain, the film was listed as #3 on Empire's Top 25 Films of 2007, the Australian edition of Empire gave it a five-star review, praising Wright's direction in the second half of the film, where he demonstrates "storytelling and technical flair to match his ability with actors".[24] Time magazine's Richard Corliss named the film one of the Top 10 Movies of 2007, ranking it at #4. Corliss praised the film as "first beguiling, then devastating", and singled out Saoirse Ronan as "terrific as the confused 12-year-old."[25][26]

The American critic Roger Ebert gave it a four-star review, dubbing it "one of the year's best films, a certain best picture nominee."[27] In the film review television program, At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, Richard Roeper gave the film "thumbs up" adding that Knightley gave "one of her best performances". As for the film, he commented that "Atonement has hints of greatness but it falls just short of Oscar contention".[citation needed]

A censored and dubbed version of Atonement was shown to an extremely limited audience in North Korea at the Pyongyang International Film Festival in 2008. The Los Angeles Times reported that "screenings of two British films, Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, were so crowded that guards had to bar the doors to prevent gate-crashers".[28]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[29]

Rank Critic Publication
1st Kenneth Turan Los Angeles Times
1st Lou Lumenick New York Post
2nd Peter Travers Rolling Stone[30]
3rd N/A Empire
4th Ann Hornaday The Washington Post
4th Joe Morgenstern The Wall Street Journal
4th Richard Corliss Time
4th Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times
4th Tasha Robinson The A.V. Club
7th Nathan Rabin The A.V. Club
8th James Berardinelli ReelViews
8th Keith Phipps The A.V. Club
8th Stephen Holden The New York Times
9th Marjorie Baumgarten The Austin Chronicle
10th Michael Sragow The Baltimore Sun
10th Noel Murray The A.V. Club

Accolades[edit]

The film has received numerous awards and nominations, including seven Golden Globe nominations, more than any other film nominated at the 65th Golden Globe Awards,[31][32] and winning two of the nominated Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture Drama. The film also received 14 BAFTA nominations for the 61st British Academy Film Awards including Best Film, Best British Film and Best Director, seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and the Evening Standard British Film Award for Technical Achievement in Cinematography, Production Design and Costume Design, earned by Seamus McGarvey, Sarah Greenwood and Jacqueline Durran, respectively. Atonement also ranks 442nd on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[33]

Atonement has been named among the Top 10 Films of 2007 by the Austin Film Critics Association, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Online, the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, and the Southeastern Film Critics Association.[34][35][36][37][38][39]

Home media[edit]

Atonement was released on DVD on 4 February 2008 in region 2, and the HD DVD edition followed on 11 March 2008. The North American DVD and HD DVD/DVD combo editions (USA/Canada) were released on 18 March 2008,[40][41] the Blu-ray was released on 26 January 2010.[42]

Historical inaccuracy[edit]

The film shows an Avro Lancaster bomber flying overhead in 1935, an aircraft whose first flight was not until 1941; in the scene on the beach at Dunkirk, Robbie is told that the Lancastria has been sunk, an event that actually happened on 17 June 1940 (two weeks after the end of the Dunkirk evacuations) and at Saint-Nazaire, not Dunkirk.[43] In the interview scene at the end of the film, Briony Tallis (played by Vanessa Redgrave at this juncture) states that the flooding (leading to multiple fatalities) of Balham Underground station as a result of aerial bombing by the Luftwaffe whilst the station was being used as an air-raid shelter occurred on 15 October 1940; the bombing and the subsequent flooding of the station actually occurred the previous evening (14 October 1940). During the scene in 1935 where Robbie writes and discards letters for Cecilia, he keeps playing a record of the love duet from Act 1 of La bohème by Puccini, with Victoria de los Ángeles and Jussi Björling, which was only recorded in 1956.[44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ATONEMENT (15)". Universal Studios. British Board of Film Classification. 10 July 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Atonement (2007)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 13 September 2009. 
  3. ^ "Academy Award nominations for 'Atonement'". Oscar.com. 23 January 2008. Archived from the original on 29 January 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2008. 
  4. ^ "BAFTA Awards for 'Atonement'". BAFTA.org. 10 February 2008. Archived from the original on 11 February 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  5. ^ "Look who's kissing Keira". DailyMail.co.uk. London. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Behind-the-Scenes of 'Atonement'". WildAboutMovies.com. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "Keira Knightley & Director Clashed Over 'Atonement' Character". Starpulse.com. Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2008. 
  8. ^ "'Atonement' Gears Up for Start of Filming". WorkingTitleFilms.com. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2008. 
  9. ^ "A Modern Version of that Stiff Upper Lip". Close-UpFilm.com. Archived from the original on 26 December 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008. 
  10. ^ a b Bamigboye, Baz (17 March 2006). "Junior pop idols need not apply". DailyMail.co.uk. London. Retrieved 4 January 2008. 
  11. ^ a b "Atonement (2007)" Archived 22 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Atonement". The Castles and Manor Houses of Cinema's Greatest Period Films. Architectural Digest. January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Atonement". The Castles and Manor Houses of Cinema's Greatest Period Films. Architectural Digest. January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Gritten, David (24 August 2007). "Joe Wright: a new movie master". Telegraph.co.uk. London. Retrieved 24 August 2007. 
  15. ^ "Filming locations for 'Atonement' (2007)" Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  16. ^ Hencke, David (24 May 2006). "Redcar scrubs up for starring role". Guardian.co.uk. London. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2007. 
  17. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (19 December 2007). "5½-minute tracking shot dazzles in 'Atonement'". USA Today. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Conway Morris, Roderick (30 August 2007). "Review: 'Atonement' and 'Se, jie' at Venice festival: Love and lust in wartime". International Herald Tribune (IHT). 
  19. ^ "Joe Wright: A New Movie Master, by David Gritten". Telegraph.co.uk. London. 24 August 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  20. ^ "Atonement to Launch Vancouver International Film Festival". CBC News. 12 September 2007. Archived from the original on 26 January 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  21. ^ "Atonement". Film in Focus. Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  22. ^ "Atonement". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 18 January 2007. 
  23. ^ "Atonement Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007. 
  24. ^ O'Hara, Helen (January 2008). "Atonement". EmpireOnline.com (Australian edition, issue 82). p. 34. Retrieved 14 November 2009. [permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Corliss, Richard; "The 10 Best Movies"; Time Magazine; 24 December 2007; Page 40.
  26. ^ Corliss, Richard (9 December 2007). "Corliss, Richard; "The 10 Best Movies";". Time.com. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (6 December 2007). "Atonement". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2007. 
  28. ^ Demick, Barbara (11 October 2008). "No stars, no swag, but what a crowd!". LATimes.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2008. 
  30. ^ Travers, Peter. (19 December 2007). "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  31. ^ "Atonement leads field at Globes". BBC News. 13 December 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  32. ^ "Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Awards for the Year Ended December 31, 2007". GoldenGlobes.org. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007. 
  33. ^ "Empire Features". EmpireOnline.com. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  34. ^ "2007 Austin Film Critics Association Awards". MovieCityNews.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. Archived 23 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ "2007 Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards". DFWFilmCritics.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  36. ^ "2007 National Board of Review". MovieCityNews.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. Archived 10 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ "2007 New York Film Critics Online Awards". MovieCityNews.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. Archived 12 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^ "2007 Oklahoma Film Critics Association Awards". MovieCityNews.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. Archived 27 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  39. ^ "2007 Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards". MovieCityNews.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011. Archived 19 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^ "DVD Release on The New York Times". Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  41. ^ "Universal official statement for 'Atonement' DVD". DVDActive.com. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  42. ^ "Amazon.com: Atonement [Blu-ray] (2007)". Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  43. ^ Sandys, Jon. "Atonement (2007) - Top 10 Mistakes". www.moviemistakes.com. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  44. ^ Greenfield, Edward. La Boheme. In: Opera on Record, ed Blyth, Alan. Hutchinson & Co, 1979, p589.

External links[edit]