“I found it kinda hard to believe I hadn’t blogged this movie yet. True, it would have come out before ExpDel was a thing, and for all I know, I may have written it up on my old LJ (that no, I am not linking to). Anyways this Oscar contender (and winner of one, for score) of recent-ish past is one that I absolutely love. I even read the book soon after watching.
You’d think I wouldn’t like this movie. It is, after all, frequently categorized as a romance. But for me, the romantic plot isn’t the important part. I see this more as Briony’s story of mistakes, misunderstanding, and her lifelong attempt at atonement (oh that’s where the name comes from).
Okay, let’s recap the story. Briony (played by Saoirse Ronan in one of her first roles and earning her first Oscar nomination) is a 13 year old girl in England in the mid 1930’s. On a busy day at her large estate, full of visiting cousins and family friends, she intercepts a racy letter mistakenly sent from the family gardener Robbie (a delicious James McAvoy) to her older sister Celia (a radient Keira Knightley). Briony catches the two of them in some compromising situations throughout the day, and her imagination runs away from her. That evening, when her tween cousin Lola (Juno Temple) is sexually assaulted, Briony is sure that Robbie is the culprit, and her testimony gets him arrested. From there, we fast foward a few years and catch up with an older Briony, serving as a nurse during WWII, who is desperate to set things right.
When I think about how much I love this movie, I always forget that it’s the first act that I love. There’s a reason Ronan quickly became a very prestigious and sought after actress (currently up for her second Oscar nomination), and her performance in this film is simply spellbinding. She has a fierce fire behind her eyes and the most stubborn attitude, which makes her one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered. She loses a lot of that as she grows up, and I just don’t find her as interesting. The story gets a little drawn out, and frankly, there are sections of the second act that I’m just sorta bored by. However, I do think the act 3 resolution is absolutely appropriate and effective enough to justify those scenes I don’t care so much for.
Ronan isn’t the only one to give an incredible performance. These are near career bests for McAvoy and Knightley as well. Even if I don’t generally care for romantic storylines, those two sell it beautifully.
And as though it were a character all unto itself, I absolute LOVE the green dress Knightley wears. I was devastated the film didn’t win for best costumes, which it was up for (ugh Elizabeth: THe Golden Age, of course the uber period piece is gonna win costume), but I think that one dress could have had it. The image of a few slivers of green peeking out in the library is an image that has stayed with me all these years. *sigh* beautiful”