A 1935 country house is the setting for this super film of Ian McEwan’s novel, starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan.
Director Joe Wright has to be admired for tackling McEwan’s bestseller in all its richness and complexity, resisting the temptation to dumb down the book’s weighty themes and shocking ending.
On the eve of World War Two, precocious 13-year-old Ronan witnesses an encounter between elder sister Knightley and housekeeper’s son McAvoy, who are on the edge of having an affair.
As a result of jealousy, spite and her own overactive imagination, Ronan tells a monstrous lie that is to have catastrophic consequences for all three characters over the coming years.
The film has an extraordinary sense of time and place, whether it be the languorous English countryside or the battle-scarred beaches of Dunkirk, thanks to Seamus McGarvey’s Oscar and Bafta-nominated cinematography – not least an astonishing and mind-bogglingly complicated single shot that tracks down through the hundreds of troops waiting to be evacuated from Dunkirk.
Equally impressive are the performances from the stars, especially Oscar-nominated Ronan, as well as Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave, who play the older versions of her character.