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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A young adolescent's distortion of the truth leads to devastating, irreversible results. A grown woman tries to "atone" for her past wrongdoing.
Positive Role Models
Briony lies, with serious consequences for others, but ultimately tries to make up for it.
Violence & Scariness
The war-related scenes in France and at Dunkirk are disturbing: soldiers shooting their horses, a field full of dead schoolgirls, amputees, bloody soldiers, etc. There's a graphic scene of a patient's head injury at a London hospital, as well as many bloody men. Another scene shows dying and dead men, as well as a group of Londoners about to perish.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Cecilia and Robbie share a few passionate kisses and an intimate lovemaking scene, but there's no nudity -- just quick shots of sleeves slipping off of shoulders and tuxedo pants opening, etc.
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"C--t" (aka "the most horrible word you've ever heard") is shown typewritten, several times. Other words include "bastard," "f--k," "s--t," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Tallises drink cocktails, wine, and champagne at a dinner party. During the Dunkirk scene, soldiers are shown drinking in a makeshift pub, while one character tries in vain to get a drink. Men and women smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Atonement is an adaptation of Ian McEwan's best-selling novel set in pre-WW II England. It deals with themes -- including adolescent immaturity, class differences, lying, and passion -- that are too complex for all but the most mature teens to really be able to grasp and put in context. There are a couple of sexual situations, and the extended scene of the evacuation from Dunkirk is bloody and disturbing. A particular "bad" word ("c--t"), used out of desire instead of anger, is shown in typeface several times throughout the film. Other language includes "s--t" and "f--k"; there's also social drinking and period-accurate smoking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Knightley and McAvoy have enough chemistry to make their scenes sizzle, and McAvoy in particular breaks out as an actor destined for leading-man status. His boyish looks allow him to be forceful and vulnerable at the same time, and he's surprisingly attractive -- but not in an overwhelming Brad Pitt way that distracts from his performance. Wright and Knightley (who also starred in his Pride & Prejudice) also seem to understand each other, and if a third film results from the pairing, it will be quite clear that he's found his professional muse.
McEwan's novel isn't easy to translate onto the big screen. The book is about the power of words, the blurry line between fantasy and truth, and the consequence of not understanding the meaning of words or sexual attraction. But Atonement director Joe Wright, who made 2006's Oscar-nominated Pride & Prejudice, does an admirable job of creating a faithful adaptation that resonates with viewers, whether they're familiar with the book or not.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate