Atonement ( MA15+)
OF all the films made in 2007, Atonement is far and away the most haunting and, to my mind, the most satisfying. Based on Ian McEwan’s heavily awarded 2001 novel of the same name ( The Observer declared it one of the best 100 novels written), the story begins in England in 1935, on the hottest day of the year. As World War II approaches, imaginative and precocious 13- year- old Briony Tallis ( Saoirse Ronan), who has written and intends to stage her first play, lives a life of privilege with her family in their enormous Victorian home. There’s a distinct touch of the kind of class collision we see in D. H. Lawrence’s work, as Briony’s older sister Cecilia ( Keira Knightley) falls passionately for Robbie Turner ( James McAvoy), the housekeeper’s son. While she has tried to suppress the attraction, it explodes into physicality, witnessed by Briony, with unfortunate and possibly unintended consequences. Through some entirely credible twists and turns, Briony’s fevered imagination lands Robbie in jail. Five years later, Robbie is at war in Dunkirk. Briony ( now played by Romola Garai) is 18 and, like her older sister, is nursing wounded soldiers. Her actions, it seems, have kept Robbie and Cecilia achingly apart. But the final scenes, in which an elderly Briony is interviewed on a Parkinson - style chat show, with Briony now played by an astonishing Vanessa Redgrave, add a most unexpected twist and sear like a branding iron to the heart.
Universal ( 117 minutes) $ 29.95