Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

Atonement

Sunday, January 20th, 2008 8:58 pm—Film

Atonement (UK/France 2007, Drama/Romance/War), Writer: Christopher Hampton; Director: Joe Wright

I wrote Atonement off too quickly after seeing a maudlin trailer. I recently saw the film itself and was very impressed. It’s really good.

The trailer I saw pitched it as a great love story, but I don’t think it’s a love story at all. It’s about trying to recover from trauma and the loss of innocence, and trying to make amends and take responsibility for one’s actions.

Set in England and France during the 1930s and 40s, Atonement begins with a well-off group of youngsters who have little to do but put on plays and traipse about their estate in lovely dresses. But when 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) misinterprets some exchanges between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the housekeeper’s son Robbie (James McAvoy), her imagination, confusion and jealousy get the best of her; she ends up accusing Robbie of a terrible crime he didn’t commit. Briony’s actions change the course of all their lives, and she ultimately spends the rest of hers trying to atone for them.

This film was so much more than I expected it to be. It’s brilliantly directed; the shots are incredible, from the careful attention to detail, to the impressive five-minute plus tracking shot along Dunkirk Beach that shows the British evacuation during the Second World War. There’s a twist at the end (for those of you who haven’t read the Ian McEwan novel from which the film was adapted). And Atonement is surprisingly funny at the beginning.

The acting is excellent, with standout performances from Saoirse Ronan and James McAvoy, my new crush. (Who wouldn’t love Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?) He’s remarkable. Watch him when he and Cecilia are reunited over lunch. She reaches out to touch him, and he tries to carry on the conversation but can’t bear to look at her. In the expression on his face and the movement of his head, you see his longing to stay with her psychically, emotionally, physically, but also the agony over what was lost and the horror of what he suffered as a result. He struggles against it, but the damage is too great; it keeps him locked inside, unable to come back to the life he knew before. To convey that much in a single moment, without words, is brilliant.

Ronan is almost eerily good in Atonement. Having that kind of depth of understanding and control over one’s craft at age 13 is astonishing. She’s currently shooting the film adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. That movie just keeps getting better the more I hear about it. It’s based on one of my favourite books, Peter Jackson is directing, and it also stars Mark Wahlberg (sadly, replacing Mark Ruffalo), Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. The Lovely Bones, along with Blindness (see the Blindness teaser from July 2007), are the two adaptations I’m most excited to see.

Speaking of adaptations, as a final plug for Atonement, I saw the movie with GR who has read the book and said that the film was very faithful to the novel in both content and essence. Not an easy feat!

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