ATONEMENT (15) After his amazingly successful big screen debut with Pride and Prejudice (2005), director Joe Wright has brought back many of the same team for this his second film, including the production designer, costume designer, editor, composer and on the acting front Keira Knightley and Brenda Blethyn. Atonement is based on the best selling novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, and Wright has tried to stick to the book as faithfully as possible.

The Tallis family live in a huge pile in the English countryside; it's 1935 and the youngest member of the family thirteen-year-old Briony (Saorise Ronan) has just finished her first play, which her mother Emily (Harriet Walter) thinks is great, but no one else is that interested in. Her elder sister Cecilia (Keira Knightly) is languishing about, and they are all waiting the arrival of their brother Leon (Patrick Kennedy) and his friend Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch). When they arrive Leon asks Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) the housekeeper's son to dinner, much to Cecilia's chagrin. The Tallis family paid for Robbie's university education, and he has every intention of paying them back, but Cecilia is a snob. However her snobbishness really masks her true feelings of love for Robbie. When Briony finds this out she is deeply jealous, as she has a crush on him herself. However a series of dreadful misunderstandings gives Briony enough fuel to accuse Robbie of a crime he didn't commit, which dramatically affects all their lives.

There is much to be praised here. The acting is of the highest calibre. Oscar nominations are being whispered about Knightley's performance, however McAvoy is equally deserving. He has unremarkable looks, but manages to convey sexuality, endearment, anger and sorrow with passionate intensity. Both their accents are well measured with Knightley brilliantly saving her perfectly cut glass pitch until Cecilia is in her twenties. Ronan is a young star to look out for in the future; she successfully gives young Briony an extremely chilling edge. Romola Garai, who plays Briony at 18, carries this on later in the film, as does Vanessa Redgrave who plays her at 70. Unfortunately the result is there isn't any real feeling of atonement from Briony even at the end. Like Pride and Prejudice the production is gorgeous and at times heart wrenching to look at, with the attention to detail awesome. Twin boys are even seen sporting elastic snake belts, which are a real blast from the past. Though their scenes together are short I haven't the faintest idea why Cecilia and her brother Leon seem to have a relationship verging on incestuous, but this is a minor complaint. The real problem is the story is extremely difficult to film, and we are never given enough time to invest feelings for any of the characters except for Briony, resulting in it being more than a trifle boring. However if you liked The English Patient (1996), which was one of my least favourite films, this could be right up your street and it has the added advantage of not being nearly as long.