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Atonement Movie Review

Atonement starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy arrive in theaters December 7th and there is already talk of several Oscar nominations for this film.

Atonement makes you thankful for DNA evidence, as it could have spared the main characters of this Joe Wright-directed drama decades of tragedy had it existed at the time the story is set. Christopher Hampton penned the screenplay adaptation of Ian McEwan’s best-selling 2002 novel, which recounts how one child’s spiteful accusation forever alters the course of three lives.

Nearly the entire first hour is spent at the sprawling English estate that the Tallis family calls home, a grand and lustrous world marked by wealth and privilege. Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) is a 13 year-old aspiring playwright who witnesses a pair of encounters between her smoldering older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the housekeeper’s charming son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).

Briony’s confused adolescent emotions and spurned overtures prompt her to make a horrible accusation against Robbie, one that we know to be untrue but there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict Robbie. His life ruined and his romance with Cecilia cut short, Robbie is offered a reprieve from prison if he enlists to fight in World War II. He does so, but longs for the day when he and Cecilia can be reunited.

Briony, meanwhile, has grown up (and is now played by Romola Garai) and realizes how horrible her actions were. Briony — who, like Cecilia, serves as a nurse for wounded soldiers back from the war — struggles to find the right way to atone for her past transgressions. Is it too late for Briony to set things right with Robbie and Cecilia? Or can these two lovers be reunited by the very person who tore them apart?

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