My previous visit to the cinema was to see Harry Potter and whilst it was an enjoyable enough way to pass the time it was good to finally watch something that had me thinking long after the film had ended. Atonement is such a film.
Reading any review is a dangerous undertaking when planning to see something you hope may turn out to be a classic. Those few I read were split in praising the film for it's dream-like first half followed by a more traditional (weaker?) narrative in the second part, or a strong finish to a slow and confused beginning. But it seems to me this mix in style is deliberate and represents the situation and state of mind of the characters, or perhaps the central character of Briony, at particular points in time.
Perhaps the film was a little unbalanced with too much of the story focusing on the people sinned against when, personally, it was Briony's attempt at redemption that held the interest. This is not a love story though it contains a love story as a backdrop. It is a story of how lives are destroyed by the imagination of a 13 year old child and it says much for the quality of the film that we come to care as much for the perpetrator as we do the victims of the crime. It was thoroughly depressing and I loved it.