MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan. Romantic drama. Written by Christopher Hampton. Directed by Joe Wright.

FILM SYNOPSIS: In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her famly live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Brionys vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the educated son of the familys housekeeper, carries a torch for Brionys headstrong older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony who has a crush on Robbie is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed.

PREVIEW REVIEW: A great deal of the misunderstanding revolves around one unprintable word. Of course, temperance has never stopped a filmmaker of the past twenty years. So, rather than leaving the word to our imagination, we are shown it several times. And thats my problem with this Oscar hopeful; its excessive.

Its a morality tale that reminds how a jump to the wrong conclusion can lead to tragedy. But it also beats you over the head with its despair, as if that component was enough to make for two hours of movie-watching. Though the artistic and technical achievements deserve the attention of award givers, the characters were just not engaging. I never grew close to them, as you do with, say, Rick, Ilsa and Victor Lasslo as they struggled to regain love and get out of Casablanca. Dark, depressing, and immoderate, Atonement feels more like a time of penance than a rich movie-going experience.

DVD Alternative: Romeo and Juliet. Zeffirelli's 1968 production is far superior to the recent film with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Focus Features

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several crude slang terms for the female body. Underneath the staidness of the period, most of the characters behave like crude schoolboys.

Obscene Language: Around 30 obscenities, mostly the f-word.

Profanity: Five or so misuses of Christs name and Gods.

Violence: Wartime atrocities, some rather graphic and horrifying imagery, including a shot of several dead schoolgirls and in another scene drowned victims floating in water; one scene appears to be a man raping a schoolgirl. Blood: Some.

Sex: There are a couple of sexual situations, one lingering, shot from several angles.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Smoking and drinking throughout by most of the characters.

Other: None

Running Time: 122 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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