Gaelicspirit (gaelicspirit) wrote,


Yesterday my husband and I were able to go out on an actual date. Those of you with very young kids will know what a monumental occasion this is. We still haven't left our daughter with a babysitter outside of Grandma and even then it's only been for the necessary work traveling. This was one of those dinner and a movie nights. One of those nights where we remembered what it was like to have a complete conversation over dinner that wasn't interrupted with "no, honey, we don't throw our mashed potatoes" or "the green beans are for you, not the dog"...

We drove to Kansas City and went for Sushi (my choice not his...luckily, they also had steak...God bless the Midwest) and saw the movie Atonement. As one who fancies herself a storyteller, this movie struck me. It was beautifully shot, vividly told, and harbored enough substance to afford my taciturn husband the opprotunity to converse about its finer points. I was impressed -- and I'd read the book about a year before seeing the movie.

For those of you wishing to watch unspoiled, I'll spare you. If anyone is curious about my ramblings, read on. 

As we watched, I found myself in awe of the nature of storytelling. Watching the tale come to life. Sensations and emotions and thoughts were shown with color and light and I was amazed. Seeing moments of life through Briony Tallis' eyes, a fanciful and imaginative child with a penchant for storytelling herself, and then seeing what really happened drove the point home to me that life is simply a series of events experienced through different filters.

One mistaken version of a note written in the frustrated throes of seemingly unrequited love spun a series events that ultimately ruined four lives: Briony, Lola the cousin, and most tragically Robbie and Cecilia. And yet, it also started the love affair that sustained Robbie and Cecilia through their most trying moments in life. Of course, one might argue that Lola's silence about Paul Marshal's actions were what ruined her life, but I didn't see it that way. Robbie's misbegotten letter was amusing, one like I might have written when trying to get over a moment in a story or to get feelings out of my head that were stifling truth. But his mistake in grabbing that letter and not the one intended for Cecilia's eyes set a chain of events into motion that he could never have expected.

I was considerably impressed with James McAvoy, having only seen him in The Chronicles of Narnia as Mr. Tumnus. *grin* He was a worthy romantic hero. He wore pain well in his clear blue eyes and quiet mouth. His quick wit and habit of watching people endeared him to me immediately. And his passion for Cecilia took my breath away.

Kiera Knightly's Cecilia was a spoiled socialite and thoroughly uninteresting until the moment she admited her love for Robbie. The moment in the library had me lacing my fingers with my husband and biting my lip. That was passion. That was honesty. That was...amazing. However, I did want to send her a danish or something, poor dear. 

But the story belonged to Briony. Her fantastic imagination led her into holding a role not unlike the young girls in the Salem Witch Trials. Not sure at all of what she'd seen by the river, she condemened Robbie with the certainty of youth and sentenced him to a never ending hell of prison, life without Cecilia, war, and ultimately death. Her moments in the hospital with the French solder, Luke, left me feeling her penance, and the imagined moment in Cecilia's flat had me yearning that the movie would change up the book, that it would let that moment be true, that it would preserve love at the cost of Briony's relationship with her sister, just to save Robbie's life.

But that wasn't the point of the story, was it? The point is that we all have filters. We see life through those filters and can stand next to another person, look at the exact same thing and see black where they see white. Our experiences, our beliefs, our dreams keep us individualized from each other and it is only through tolerance, acceptance, and understanding that we pause long enough to assess that what we see isn't necessarily what another sees, but that doesn't mean one or the other is wrong.

It's a hard lesson to learn. For some, for those who raised me, it is impossible to learn. And in this case, Briony's filter ended up in Robbie's death on the beaches of Dunkrik after surviving prison, war, and seperation from his love. And it ended up in Cecilia's death in the tunnel's of London when a bomb from the Luftwaffe broke a water main and drowned so many who sought shelter there.

Elder Briony's statement of truth no longer having a purpose had me pondering many things. Nothing concrete or life-changing in the moment, but just thinking about when it's wise to be truthful and when it's wise to tell a story and spare feelings. I've done that all of my life, but moreso in adulthood. Or what I claim is adulthood. When my mother, who essentially abandoned me to live her life when I was 12 and my siblings 2 and 4, came to me later in life with tears in her voice and asked if I blamed her for my not having a childhood, I could have said yes. Yes, I blame you. Everything I do now is different. Everything I feel is colored by how I grew up. Every doubt I feel stems from you. I still feel pain because you weren't around for so many years.

But instead I said "Mom, I like who I am today and I wouldn't be this person had it not been for how you raised me." It was a form of the truth, right? It settled her tears, anyway.

My favorite line was Cecilia's repeated "Come back. Come back to me." Not just in the physical sense, but in the emotional, mental sense. You belong here, in my heart, in my arms, I need you, without you there is no me...come back, come back to me.

Fantastic love story, beautifully timed, well paced, intricately told. And except for one or two scenes, I don't know that I'd ever watch it again. I won't forget about it, but it won't be in my sparce DVD collection (currently populated by SPN, Boondock saints, and Collin Ferrel movies...I've sold the rest for various reasons). It was one of those stories that makes you see too much of yourself if you allow it and sometimes, that mirror gets heavy.

I will say, though, that it allowed me to think about different angles in writing "In the Light" and for that, I was grateful. I'd been feeling slightly...disenchanted and needed a boost of storytelling to get me in the groove again. *shrug* What can you do.

Tags: movie reviews
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