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Atonement 2007 ****

Ian McEwan’s work has produced variable results in terms of big screen adaptations; while Enduring Love worked well, The Innocent’s meagre drama belied the talent involved. Christopher Hampton fared much better with this adaptation for director Joe Wright; with capable leads from Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, Atonement is a love story that reaches far beyond a conventional narrative. Sairiose Ronan sprang to fame as Briony, the younger sister of Cecilia (Knightley), who has embarked on a passionate romance with aspiring doctor Robbie (McAvoy); sisterly jealousy causes her to push the lovers apart. Robbie goes off to WWII, but nothing can keep the lovers apart. Atonement deals with war and grief is a strikingly romantic way, juxtaposing the sparkling veneer of English country house life with the horrors of war, beautifully visualised by Wright in an astonishing shot involving a big wheel on a beach. A final interview-based coda, featuring Vanessa Redgrave and the late Anthony Minghella, makes Atonement’s meaning crystal clear; love conquers all, if not in the way the lovers might hope.


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