Sunday, November 13, 2016

Film review by Alessia Vita


Genre: Period drama
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave
Music: Dario Marianelli
Running time: 123 min

The film is set in 1935, when Briony Tallis, a 13-years-old girl and a wannabe writer, sees a moment of closeness between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie, a family friend. Some days later, she accidentally reads a love letter, sent by Robbie to Cecilia, which contained explicit sexual references, and starts worrying about her sister. During a dinner, she finds the two lovers together in the library, while they're having a passionate intercourse. This situation gets worse when her cousin Lola is raped by an unknow man, in which Briony is almost sure to have seen Robbie. The boy is arrested and take away from Cecilia, who firmly believes in his innocence.
Four years later, Robbie is released on condition that he joins the army: after many dangerous adventures as a soldier, he reunites with Cecilia in London. In the meantime Briony, now 18 years old, understands the serious consequences of her deposition to the police and tries to apologies to them, but Robbie and Cecilia wont forgive her: the only way to help was to go and tell their family about the truth.
Decades later, an elderly Briony, now a successful author, gives an interview on her latest book, "Atonement", in which she tells her story of the two star-crossed lovers. Then she confesses that the reunion and marriage of Cecilia and Robbie had never happened: the man had died of septicemia during the war and her sister had been killed by a flood in a tube station. Her fictional happy ending was a way to give them back what she had taken away from them.

This film is devided into three parts. The first one is devoted to Robbie and Cecilia's story and Robbie's arrest: the colours give a sens of progressive distance from the bright light of love, well represented in a daily scene near a fountain in Tallis holding, where they undestand their attraction to each other; the following arrest scene is set at night and represents the death of passion due to an external cause, Briony, who's still dressed in light blue and white, clues of her inner naivety.
The second part is characterised by a moving soundtrack which underlines Robbie's sad destiny and painful war experience, that he accepts although he perfectly knows it's savagely stealing his time with Cecilia. The photography is excellent too, because it gives us spectacular views of poppy fields alternated with catastrophic images of devastation and massive bombing.
The last part is the keystone to the entire plot and the final explanation for the title of our film: Briony's job place, a war hospital, is the perfect representation of regret and catharsis, the spiritual prison by which she forbides herself to have a successful writing carreer. She's a nurse now and she had to devote herself to people who suffer, even if this means that she herself has to suffer. The colours in which she's wrapped are grey, black and red, very different from those she experienced during her childhood: but the shades become more and more brighter when she tries to fix her mistakes, letting Robbie and Cecilia to their peaceful life together. The final time hop in the future shows us a wiser Briony, whose wrinkles reveal the profundity of her remorse and the amount of time spent thinking about what she did; but this condition is not enough to give this story a true happy ending: darkness and death make their last apparition, when Robbie and Cecilia's lives are taken by the tragic course of events. 

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