Monday, January 7, 2008

Reviewed and/or Abused: Atonement

My last free day of vacation my mother, sister, and I decided to see a movie of light fare that would allow us to begin the upcoming work and school week in hope and happiness. So we saw Atonement, one of the most effing confusing and depressing films of the holiday season. Yeah I know this film was not marketed nor conceived as a family oriented fun times flick but man, did they have to take my already fragile heart and pierce it ruthlessly with a solitary tear shed by James McAvoy? More Review After the Jump!

Don't get me wrong, the movie is great in certain respects, i.e. the acting is superb, the score impeccable going so far as to include the sound of typewriting in its melody, and the story itself is fantastic. How could it not be though, right? The book, written by Ian McEwan is heralded as one of the 100 greatest books of all time by Time Magazine. Plus there was this four minute sequence shot with one frame that puts you in the middle of the Dunkirk Evacuation that was powerful. Joe Wright, who also directed Pride and Prejudice, has a wonderful knack of making the audience feel as if they are right in the thick of it which is the mark of a brilliant director, no?

However there is something in my mind that stops this movie from becoming a future DVD of my collection. And that stoppage is the characterization of Briony Tallis. First I must preface that I've never read the book therefore I must tread lightly here, but from what I have understood from researching the story, the main character, Briony, starts off as this little 13 year old girl who witnesses something she doesn't understand and therefore makes a huge error, and in consequence ruins the lives of the two lovers played by Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. Now the title of the movie leads one to believe that the rest of her life is spent attempting to atone for the fatal mistake she made long ago. And in fact certain decisions of hers would lend itself to this theory, yet I didn't feel that she atoned or wanted too. I left the theatre wondering if she really understood what she did and whether she explored the real motivations for inventing the atrocious farce in the first place. So in essence something that was supposed to be the bread and butter of the movie, i.e. her wising up to her actions just wasn't there for me. Granted the story unfolds in a very convoluted way with a quasi shocking ending (if you haven't read the book of course) which could exacerbate my misunderstanding of Briony's real emotion throughout the film but still. If I have to go to message boards and wikipedia to figure it out then it wasn't really convincing was it?

Perhaps, though, that's the point. The lines of reality and fiction are blurred to us just as it was in Broiny's head. Therefore what one thinks is a romantic drama is in essence a morality tale showcasing the dangers of mixing fact with fiction. Either way the movie destroyed me. Mostly because James McAvoy's interpretation of a tortured soul is out of this world. Also because he had the one sole tear sliding down the face moment. Those kill me.

So go see it if you want to further discuss it with me, but trust when I say my mother and sister left saying, wha?

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