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Film Review: “Atonement”

It is beautiful. It is moving. It’s a modern masterpiece. These brief lines are just a taste of what can describe this year’s Golden Globe winner, “Atonement.” While all these claims are rightfully true it is necessary to recognize a few other opinions. “Atonement” is also a film lacking in reasonably developed characters, and is a definite victim of misguided storytelling.

As it depicts a story that spans over decades, “Atonement” is a love story as much as it is a depressing take on the guilty side of life. That guilt lies with Briony. As a young writer Briony’s vivid imagination is what sparks our story of guilt. At the age of 13, she witnesses an unsettling encounter between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the son of the family’s housekeeper, Robbie (James McAvoy). Inevitably, it causes her to interfere and accuse Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Upon these unknowingly childish actions, Cecilia and Robbie are torn apart, and Briony falls into a growing life of guilt that changes the course of their lives forever.

Even with such an astonishing grasp on its initial themes, the screenplay can’t decide whether or not it wants to follow the guilt ridden tale of Briony, or the lust filled relationship between Cecilia and Robbie. Given the two scenarios, it seems it would be an easy choice to focus the attention on Briony. Intricately woven throughout the narrative of the film, the character of Briony is so powerful that she captures purpose and point of the film all within the final moments of the film. Had she been given more screen time than the over the typical relationship of Robbie and Cecilia, the film could have easily been placed among the ranks of a masterpiece.

It is urgently necessary to note that all this criticism is just minor nitpicking. Atonement is a sensational film that falls short of the qualifications needed to be nominated for the best picture of the year. With so much intricacy put into the cinematography of the film it is tragic to see that it didn’t extend upon its love-struck characters. The real presence is in Briony. Inevitably, “Atonement” is a beautifully moving and heartfelt representation of an era with blending moods and lifestyles. It captures a time unlike ours just as easily as it captures our emotions.

Three and a half stars out of four

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