I enjoyed the film “Atonement”. I had heard that some reviewer had declared that Keira Knightley’s acting was wooden. I don’t agree at all. I just keep thinking she looks in need of a good meal, in spite of looking so elegant in her green dress. I thought the tension and longing between Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy) was played convincingly.
I told a friend I was going to see “Atonement” with Penny, and he simply said, “O yeah, chick-flick.” Having seen it I say it is much much more than that.
I left the cinema wondering why I liked “Atonement” so much. I thought the acting and action was good, I loved the scenery and sets. I liked Keira Knightley in her green dress. These things all engaged me in the story and, looking back, pulled me along through the adventures. But as I left City Screen I knew I felt there was more to it than that. It had connected with me deeply. I had felt some of the agony during the scenes played so powerfully by Vanessa Redgrave.
I am not giving anything away to anyone who has not yet seen the film to say that the big story is forgiveness, and the longing for it. I think the real reason I liked the film so much is that it stirred deep inside me the convictions I have about forgiveness and the memories of some experiences I have had over the years. I have listened to those who have confided in me as they describe their longing for forgiveness, yet not believing they have found it.
In my world I tend to mix with people who find forgiveness in Jesus and experience the life-transformation that it brings. This film reminded me that I find it too easy to forget what it is like for those I tend not to spend time with, those who do not receive forgiveness. This film called to mind the greatness of the gift Jesus offers, and the awfulness of being left bereft without it.
The old apostle John1 wrote to younger people who had more recently discovered what forgiveness felt like when he said, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”
To be exact though, the believer receives two things from Jesus, forgiveness and the assurance of forgiveness.
I once heard a story told to me when I lived in Scotland (supposedly true) of an old lady living in what had once been a remote place in the Highlands. All her life she had lived on the same farm and then in her old age, now living alone, a new water system had brought water to a shining new tap in her kitchen. She could not bring herself to believe that the water in the tap was authentic or could be relied upon, so she continued to trudge, frail as she was, to the old well, in all weathers, to get all her water.
Forgiveness without the assurance of forgiveness is like a millionaire convinced he is poor. Like the woman with the water tap, but not being convinced it could work for her.
In the film the older Briony Tallis, played by Vanessa Redgrave, comes up with a way of feeling forgiven of finding assurance of forgiveness. Her method does not work, and that is the agony we watch in her as she explains her method and reaches desperately and fruitlessly for it.
The title, “Atonement” is a technical religious term. It specifically means the price paid for forgiveness. The Bible2, speaking of Jesus says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus is therefore the price paid for our forgiveness (and that of the whole world) should any wish to avail themselves of it. Tallis represents those who try their own methods which are destined to fail and it is heart-breaking to watch.
See IMDB for trivia and gaffs.