British author Ian McEwan’s seminal, decades-spanning novel makes for a sumptuous, unbearably sad adaptation under UK filmmaker Joe Wright’s meticulous eye. Saoirse Ronan earned her first Oscar nomination as the precocious Briony, while the UK’s Keira Knightley and James McAvoy astound as ill-fated lovers. The costume and production design and score are also sublime.
In 1935, on the hottest day of the year, the Tallis’ family mansion provides the backdrop for an unsettling event. When 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) points the figure at their housekeeper’s son Robbie (James McAvoy), she sets off a chain of events that will disrupt theirs and her sister Cecilia’s (Keira Knightley) lives forever, and for which she will become obsessed with atoning for.