Atonement Movie Poster Image




Stellar literary adaptation too mature for kids.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A young adolescent's distortion of the truth leads to devastating, irreversible results. A grown woman tries to "atone" for her past wrongdoing.


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.


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.


"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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Like any upper-crust English family, 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, as was the style in the '30s and '40s.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this adaptation of Ian McEwan's best-selling novel set in pre-WW II England 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.

What's the story?

Based on the best-selling novel by English author Ian McEwan, ATONEMENT is an epic love story about Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of a rich English family's housekeeper, and upper-crust beauty Cecelia Tallis (Keira Knightley). Robbie, who was sent to Cambridge on the Tallis family's benevolent dime, secretly admires Cecilia. Cee's 13-year-old sister Briony, a fabulist who lives in her own girlish world of plays and poems, harbors a crush on Robbie, which leads her to misinterpret a steamy moment between Cee and Robbie as an attack. Fueled by a shocking love letter draft that Robbie unintentionally sends to Cee, Briony accuses Robbie of an unrelated sexual crime. And suddenly the film, like the book, skips ahead five years, as Robbie -- now an ex-con soldier -- and two other men walk through war-torn France to the pivotal evacuation at Dunkirk. Robbie is just one of tens of thousands of men waiting to get back to England -- with just his letters from Cee and the memory of their stolen embraces to give him comfort. As in the book, as the movie nears its end, viewers meet an elderly Briony, convincingly played by Vanessa Redgrave, who still wears the same hairstyle and figureless dresses sported by the 13-year-old Ronan. She's finally gotten a chance to fully make up for her adolescent mistakes.

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 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the impact of Briony's lie. What misconceptions led her to think she saw Robbie committing a crime? What does the story convey about the power of words and the flexibility of truth? Older teens who are precocious readers may want to read the novel and discuss whether the film is an accurate, adequate adaptation.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 6, 2007
DVD/Streaming release date:March 17, 2008
Cast:James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai
Director:Joe Wright
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bynicolybinoly94 November 8, 2009

Fine 13 and up

It really fine
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bysmnicole93 December 23, 2010

older kids

this is a good movie, for people over 15. there is sex witnessed by a little sister, the c word, and a rape of a young girl. if you still feel this is something you are ok with you kid watching i still advise you watch it first or watch it with them
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bySosi L. April 9, 2008


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