Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Atonement (2007)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Atonement (2007, US/UK)

In director Joe Wright's epic war film of thwarted romance over a period of six decades:

  • the three scenes of fantasy-prone 13 year-old aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) witnessing a series of events in 1935 England - with long-lasting consequences that caused irrevocable and permanent damage:

    (1) she watched as her lithe older sister Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) cavorted with her 'secret' boyfriend, servant/cook son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) at her rich family's estate at an outdoor fountain; she saw Cecilia dive underwater to retrieve a broken piece of a family heirloom vase - and emerged almost naked in front of Robbie with her soaked and transparent dress
    (2) she also observed their passionate love-making scene against the stacks in the library
    (3) she saw house-guest Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch) and her 15 year-old visiting cousin Lola Quincey (Juno Temple) engaged in rough, 'non-consensual rape'

  • afterwards, however, Briony (willfully?) misidentified and wrongly accused Robbie of 'raping' Lola; Robbie was charged and arrested for the 'rape'
  • four years later, Robbie had been pardoned and was serving in the British Army, where he was a participant in the Dunkirk evacuation, and had become seriously wounded
  • a bravura extended tracking shot (5 minutes and 30 seconds) showed Robbie walking along the French beach during the Dunkirk evacuation - where stranded show horses were being executed, as the camera glided down the beach (amidst a beached barge and a spinning ferris wheel) and then around a choir of wounded infantrymen, and ended finally in a bar
  • at the same time, Cecilia was a nurse during the war effort, while 18 year-old Briony (Romola Garai) was working in a London hospital. When Briony realized that she had testified falsely about Robbie's involvement with Lola, she went to apologize to them, but it appeared too late to have any effect
  • at film's end in present-day England, older, terminally-ill (with vascular dementia) novelist Briony (Vanessa Redgrave) was interviewed about her latest and last book - an autobiographical work titled Atonement - when she confessed as an act of penance that much of the end portion of the novel (concerning her apology) was fabricated and imaginary about their reconciliation, since both Robbie and Cecilia died during the war; Robbie had died of a sepsis infection at Dunkirk before being evacuated, and Cecilia drowned as a result of a tube station bombing during the Blitz months later
Older Novelist Briony (Vanessa Redgrave): Her Confession
Her Novel's Fabricated Happy Ending
  • the final idealized scene (a 'happy ending') of the lovers cavorting on the beach near a beach house, was as Briony stated: "So in the book, I wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia what they lost out on in life. I'd like to think this isn't weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness. I gave them their happiness"

Sexy Fountain Scene

Library Love-Making Against Stacks

Robbie Wrongly Accused of 'Raping' Lola

Young Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan): Her Fanciful Accusatory Imagination

Dunkirk Evacuation Scene


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