I’m still recovering from the experience of watching the highly cinematic adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel “Atonement”. A triumph on every level. Starting out as what appears to be yet another heritage/country house melodrama, its tone quickly darkens somewhat, although the plot hinges on an unlikely schoolboy error by James McAvoy’s character. He conveys wounded righteousness to shattering effect, Keira Knightley puts her wafer-thin porcelain brittleness to good use, and Saoirse Ronan and Romola Garai are wonderful as subtly petulant and older, wiser versions of the same adolescent, whose wilful misinterpretation of events destroys a number of lives, whilst possibly being the making of others. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton refrain from using voice-over until well into the story, and even then it’s inherent to the tale, rather than simply a lazy, non-visual way of telling it. The directorial approach is mood-sensitive rather than obtrusive, with very clever use of sound (typewriter keys as part of the score, the water motif), and camerawork strictly serving the needs of the narrative, the imagery being unadorned, dreamlike or ambiguous as required; and while the “all-human-life-is-here” Dunkirk set-piece epic take has been rightly praised, it’s also worth pointing out the perhaps the most telling shot is that of Vanessa Redgrave simply addressing the camera in the final segment. For a film one of whose many themes is irony, it packs a real emotional punch – it’s nice to see a piece of work which both tugs at the heartstrings and respects the intelligence.