Director Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement is beatifully made and probably fully deserves the standing ovation it received in Venice. Having said that while I enjoyed seeing it – it’s a much better film than most I’ll see this year, an experience that was enhanced by the intelligent Bafta-organised Q&A with the director, Keira Knighley and James McAvoy, the over-riding emotion for me on leaving the cinema is one of detachment. So why is it with some films, when all the film elements seem to be more than in just in their place – the characters, the storyline, the acting, the camera-work are flawless – the whole isn’t quite the sum of its parts?
I don’t really have an answer, but here for me, the interior monologue and motivation of Briony wasn’t sufficient. The first half of the film feels like Cecilia and Robbie’s film with Briony an incidental character but the second part makes a radical shift, focusing on her tortured existence living with what she’s done. I think the issue for me is that it’s her single mistaken action that determines the course of these people’s lives and there’s just not enough put into this moment.