We watched the movie last night at my mom's house. I've read the book, but had very little recollection of the story line, other than that I didn't think it ended well and that I liked the name of the little girl (Briony--played in this case by a perfect little girl with a bobbed cut and bobby pin and round blue eyes).
In a nutshell, the story is about a little girl who has a crush on an older boy who works on their estate.She witnesses a series of adult interactions between her sister and the boy, ending with catching them in the act in a scene that must have been titled, The Green Dress. Later in the night, another little girl is raped by a dastardly mustached visitor (the British guy who plays Sherlock Holmes in the current PBS series) and Briony lies and says that it was the boy she has a crush on who did it. "I saw him," she says, even though she didn't. Thus, she sets in motion a series of events the splits apart the lovers, sends an innocent man to jail as a pedophile, and eventually, inadvertently leads to his death from sepsis.
The first part of the story takes place in 1935 and the sets were amazing plus who doesn't love the clothes they wore with the many pleats and tucks. Dan and Mom had both seen the movie when it first came out in theaters years ago, but neither could remember much about it either. I kept saying, Does it end well? They said no, they didn't think so. Not even a little bit? No, not even a little bit. Were they sure? They weren't 100 percent sure, but they were pretty certain that it didn't tie up in a nice little bow.
We watched it all, through the betrayal of the little girl, then a jump forward to four years later in the middle of the war and then the very end to the present day with Lynn or Vanessa Redgrave as the older Briony wearing her hair in the same neat bob with a pin.
The interesting thing about the movie is that they don't do that typical Hollywood thing where they give you the ending you want and then maybe pull the rug out from under you to let you know that it's all a dream kind of thing. Instead, they have the adult Briony telling her interviewer (as an adult authoress, dying of a brain disease) that she invented the ending. That she went ahead and made it happy in her novel--gave her sister and her lover a life together, when in reality, both of them died because of events related to the war; they never were reunited, she never did mend fences with her sister, she never got to make that final atonement she'd spent her life trying to pay back. Then they showed the scene she'd written in the book, of her sister and the love of her life frolicking in the beach happily. I just thought it was kind of cool that they didn't do it the way and then make the audience mad by saying, Gotcha!
The only thing I didn't like that much about the movie was Kiera Knightly--not for any other reason than that she's painfully thin. Unhealthily, disconcertingly rail anorexic, ladder thin. And because she looks so much like Winona Ryder with less interesting features.
It makes me want to read more McEwan--I started his newest book and ruined it for myself by reading the ending before I got there, and it had a similar theme--you learn that the details you thought were true were inventions of one of the characters; another sort of "ah-ha" ending that's beautifully done. I have another one of his on my bedside table right now, can't think of the name, but I'm saving it until I've run out of library books. Will let you know how it turns out, and if it turns out in a surprising way.