It’s the early sixties, Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting have just become engaged and headed to their Honeymoon at Chesil Beach. They are both virgins, and have had no sex education. So things are tense, each comes with their own baggage and things don’t go well.
I found this read long, slow and tedious. It had moments which almost seemed to get emotional but then it just dragged on. I saw that it was a film starring the wonderful Saorise Ronan and had to give it a try, to see how they could possibly have taken a story I found so dull and made it into a film.
On Chesil Beach (2017)
As it happens, the film was a pretty decent reflection of the book, which unfortunately meant it was slow and dull. Though apparently I might be a bit alone on that one… there were a lot of good reviews, though there are also a few clankers in there.
I remember the start of Kiera Knightly’s career. In Bend it like Beckham, she was the young and adorable thing. Then in Pirates of the Carribean she had a bit of fight in her – there was some humour, and I especially enjoyed the flirtiness between her character and the marvellous Captain Jack Sparrow. But since then, every performance of hers I’ve seen makes me cringe. It’s the pout more than anything; plus the fact that when she smiles, she appears to be in pain. I was hoping for more in Atonement, but was sorely let down. She pouted more than ever and talked so fast I could barely understand her. Terrible.
Atonement tells the story of Briony Tallis, as young child who witnesses several events and connects them together in, what appears to her to be a logical manner, with dire results.
I read the book by Ian McEwan years ago and so knew the story, and I think that the film would be far better if the plot was a surprise. I also really enjoyed the book, and that can be so problematic when watching film translations. I must re-read it now, because it felt that there was not enough content to maintain the film for the full 123 minutes, and given that it is not a short book, it seems odd.
The film is beautifully filmed, especially the extremely long single camera shot along the beach in France as the soldiers wait to be evacuated. James McAvoy is great, as usual, and the young actress Saoirse Ronan was deserving of her Oscar nomination. Just a shame about Knightly.
Atonement won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score and was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Saorise Ronan), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Acheievement in Costume Design. It won the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture- Drama and Best Original Score, as well as a heap of nominations for Golden Globes in other areas.