Atonement (2007) Script

-I finished my play. -Well done.

Have you seen Mummy?

Well, she'll be in the drawing room, I expect.

I hope you're not gonna be getting under our feet today, Miss Briony.

We got a dinner for 10 to prepare.

-Hello, pal, I hear you're putting on a play. -Who told you?

Jungle drums.

-Will you come and see it? -I'm not sure that would be quite...

Why don't you let me read it?

You used to make me those beautiful bound copies of all your stories.

-I've kept them all. -I still want you to come.

-Let's see. -I have to go now.

Mummy, I need you!

Stupendous. It's stupendous, darling. Your first play.

Do you think so? Do you think Leon will like it?

Well, of course he will.

The Trials of Arabella, by Briony Tallis.

Cee. -Yes?

What do you think it would feel like to be someone else?

Cooler, I should hope.

-I'm worried about the play. -I'm sure it's a masterpiece.

But we only have the afternoon to rehearse. What if the twins can't act?

You have to be nice to them. I wonder how'd you feel if your mother had run off with Mr What's-his-name who reads the news on the wireless?

Perhaps I should have written Leon a story.

If you write a story, you only have to say the word "castle," and you could see the towers and the woods and the village below, but...

In a play, it's...

It all depends on other people.

-Cee. -Yes?

Why don't you talk to Robbie any more?

I do. We just move in different circles, that's all.

-Do we have to do a play? -Why do we have to?

-It's to celebrate my brother Leon's visit. I hate plays.

So do l. -How can you hate plays?

-It's just showing off. -You'll be in this play or you'll get a clout.

-And I'll tell the parents. You're not allowed to clout us.

We're guests in this house. And what did the parents say we were to make ourselves?

-Well, Pierrot? -Amenable.

-Jackson? -Amenable.

Amenable, that's right.

Now, Briony, what's your play about?

Well, it's about how love is all very well, but you have to be sensible.

-I suppose you're going to be Arabella. -Well, not necessarily.

-In that case, do you mind if I play her? Lola was in the school play.

Do say yes. It'd be the first decent thing to happen to me in months.

Well, yes, all right.

I suppose we should start by reading it.

If you're going to be Arabella, then I'll be the director, thank you very much.


I'm going to do the prologue.


"This is the tale of spontaneous Arabella, "who ran away with an extrinsic fellow.

"It grieved her parents to see their firstborn

"evanesce from her home to go to Eastbourne."


-Nothing. Just thought I'd watch. Rehearsals are private, I'm afraid.

You can see the play this evening.

-I'll have to work then. -Well, I'm sorry, Danny.

Can we go for a swim now? Yes, yes, yes!

-No, I don't really think there's time! Cecilia will let us.

I'm sure a half-hour break would do us all good.

Cecilia? Cecilia!


Cecilia! Cecilia, Cecilia. Please, can we go for a swim, Cecilia?

Yes, I don't see why not. Don't go out of your depth!

Can you do me one of your Bolshevik roll-ups?

Beautiful day. -I suppose so. Too hot for me.

-Are you enjoying your book? -No, not really.

It gets better.

I prefer Fielding any day.

Much more passionate.

-Leon's coming down today, did you know? -I heard a rumour.

He's bringing a friend with him. It's Paul Marshall, the chocolate millionaire.

-Are the flowers for him? -Why shouldn't they be?

Leon says he's very charming.

The Old Man telephoned last night. He says you're planning on being a doctor.

-I'm thinking about it, yes. -Another six years of student life.

-How else do you become a doctor? -You could get a fellowship, now, -couldn't you? With your First? -I don't want to teach.

I said I'd pay your father back.

That's not what I meant at all.

-Let me help with that. -No, I'm all right, thanks.

-Take the flowers. Take the flowers. -I'm all right. I'm all right.

Oh, you idiot.

Do you realise that's probably the most valuable thing we own?

Not any more, it isn't.



Hello, Robbie!

No need to encourage him.



-Where is everyone, Danny? -I don't know, sir.

Sir. Gasping for a drink.

-Will you have one? Rather.

-Whisky? -Please.

-Leon! -Here she is.

Oh, I've missed you. I've been going completely doolally up here.

-This is my sister, Cecilia. Paul Marshall. -I've heard an awful lot about you.

-Likewise. Where are we putting him?

In the blue room. Mother's lying down, she's got one of her migraines.

I'm not surprised, with this heat.

It's the big room next to the nursery.

Is the Old Man staying in town?

Looks like it. Some sort of rush on at the Ministry.

So aren't we doing the play? No.

Why not? -Don't ask me.

I don't like it here.

There's always a problem when a new brand comes about.

The remarketing, the re-packaging, the re-shaping.

Even the re-flavouring in some cases, or whole new technology.

I think our main challenge is whether or not to launch the new Amo Bar.

The Army Amo. Do you see? Pass the Amo?

My source at the Ministry is very reliable, I used to clean his shoes at Harrow, informs me we have a good chance of including it in the standard issue ration pack.

Which means that I'd have to open at least three more factories.

More if they bring in conscription, which I say is bound to happen if Herr Hitler doesn't pipe down.

He's about as likely to do that as buy shares in Marks and Spencer's, wouldn't you agree?

-This isn't very good. -I make a cocktail with crushed ice, rum and melted dark chocolate. It's absolutely scrumptious.

Guess who we met on the way in? -Robbie.

-I told him to join us tonight. -Oh, Leon, you didn't.

So, Robbie, the housekeeper's son, whose father did a bunk 20 years ago, gets a scholarship to the local grammar, the Old Man puts him through Cambridge, goes up at the same time as Cee, and for three years she hardly speaks to him.

Wouldn't let him within a mile of her Roedean chums.

Anyone got a cigarette?

I don't know what the hell he's doing these days, messing about in flower beds.

As a matter of fact, he's planning on doing a medical degree.

And the Old Man said yes to that?

Look, I really think you should go down to the lodge and ask him not to come.

Why? Has something happened between you?

For God's sake.

-When can we go home? Soon.

We can't go home. It's a divorce.

-How dare you say that? -Well, it's true!

You will never, ever use that word again! Do you understand?

-Now what are we going to do? -I'm always asking myself that.

My name is Paul Marshall. You must be the cousins from the north.

-What are your names? -Pierrot.

-Jackson. -What marvellous names.

Do you know our parents?

Well, I've read about them in the paper.

-What exactly have you read about them? -Oh, you know. The usual sort of nonsense.

I'll thank you not to talk about this in front of the children.

Your parents are absolutely wonderful people, that's quite clear, and they love you and think about you all the time.

Jolly nice slacks.

We went to see a show and I got them at Liberty's.

-What was the show? -Hamlet.

Ah, yes. "To be or not to be."

I like your shoes.

Duckers in the Turl. They make a wooden thing, shaped like your foot.

Keep it forever.

I'm starving. When's dinner?

Well, I might be able to help you there, if you can guess what I do for a living.

-You've got a chocolate factory. -Everyone knows that.

Then it wasn't a guess, was it?

There'll be one of these in every kit bag of every soldier in the British Army.

Sugar casing, so it won't melt.

Why should they get free sweets?

'Cause they'll be fighting for their country.

Our daddy says there isn't going to be a war.

Your daddy is wrong.

-Calling it the Army Amo. -Amo, amas, amat.

Top marks.

It's boring how everything ends in "o." "Polo" and "Aero."

-And "Oxo" and "Brillo". -Sounds as if you don't want it.

Then I shall just have to give it to your sister.

Bite it.

You have to bite it.

The Princess was well aware of his remorseless wickedness.

But that made it no easier to overcome the voluminous love she felt in her heart for Sir Romulus. The Princess knew instinctively that the one with red hair was not to be trusted.

As his young ward dived again and again to the depths of the lake, in search of the enchanted chalice, Sir Romulus twirled his luxuriant moustache.

Sir Romulus rode with his two companions, northwards, drawing ever closer to an effulgent sea.

So heroic in manner, he appeared so valiant in word no one could ever guess at the darkness lurking in the black heart of Sir Romulus Turnbull.

He was the most dangerous man in the world.

"Dear Cecilia, I thought I should write to apologise for my clumsy

"and inconsiderate behaviour."

"Forgive me if I seem strange but I'm..."

Dear Cecilia, you'd be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon.

The truth is I feel rather lightheaded and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don't think I can blame the heat.

"Will you forgive me?


Off out then?

Yes, Leon's asked me to join them for dinner.

So that's why I've been polishing silver all afternoon.

I'll think of you when I see my face in the spoon.

You're not a bit like your father. Not in any way.

That's because I'm all yours. I'll be late.

Your shirts are hanging upstairs.

-Son. -Yes?


Briony! Is that you?

Are you all right?

Do you think you could do me a favour?

Could you run ahead and give this to Cee? I...

-Feel a bit of a fool handing it over myself. -All right.



-I suppose he's what you might call eligible. -Rather.

He certainly seems to think he's the cat's pyjamas.

Which is odd, considering he has pubic hair growing out of his ears.

I should imagine he'd give you a lot of very noisy, boneheaded sons.

-He's quite a good egg, actually. -You say that about everyone.

-Leon! -Rummy, if it ain't my little sis!

I wrote you a play, Leon. I wanted to do a play for you.

-The Trials Of Arabella. -Well, there's still time.

-Doesn't have to be this evening. -No, it's impossible.

Briony. Tell you what. I'm good at voices, you're even better, so we'll read it out after dinner.

-Briony, did you read this letter? -Yes, let's. That's a wonderful idea.

-Briony! -Here we are. My choc-tail.

I insist you try it.

Wasn't there an envelope?

Do you mind if I come in?

I've had the most appalling evening.

The twins have been torturing me. Look.

How awful.

Chinese burns.

That's right.

They want to go home. They think it's me that's keeping them here.


Can I tell you something? Something really terrible.

Yes, please.

What's the worst word you can possibly imagine?

-He's a sex maniac! -That's right.

-What's Cecilia going to do? -I don't know.

-You ought to call the police. -Do you think so?

He said he thought about it all day long.

All you have to do is show them the letter.

-You won't tell anyone, will you, promise? -I promise.

Good. If he found out, there's no knowing what he might do.

You're right.

You better tidy your face. I've still got to change.

Thanks, Briony. You're a real brick.


-It was a mistake. -Briony read it.

My God, I'm so sorry. It was the wrong version.


-It was never meant to be read. -No.

What was in the version I was meant to read?

I don't know. It was more formal. Less...

-Anatomical? -Yes.

It's been there for weeks, and then this morning by the fountain...

I've never done anything like that before.

And I was so angry with you, and with myself.

I thought if you went away to medical school, then I'd be happy, but...

I don't know how I could have been so ignorant about myself, so...

So stupid.

You do know what I'm talking about, don't you?

You knew before I did.

Why are you crying?

Don't you know?

Yes, I know exactly.



I love you.

I love you.

Someone's come in.


People were sitting out having dinner on the pavement.

It was always the view of my parents that hot weather encouraged loose morals.

In high summer, my sister and l were never allowed out of the house.

They thought the villagers would be unnecessarily provoked.

What do you say, Cee? Does the hot weather make you behave badly?

-Good heavens, you're blushing. -It's just hot in here, that's all.

Lola, wipe that lipstick off. You're far too young.

What about you, Briony? What sins have you committed today?

-I've done nothing wrong. Have you seen the twins recently?

They didn't look very happy last time I saw them, poor little chaps.

You know nothing about it. -Briony. I can't imagine what's got into you.

-I've never known you to be so rude. Well, they're not poor little chaps.

-Just look what they did to Lola. -What are you talking about?

Jackson and Pierrot bruised her arm. Gave her Chinese burns.

I'm afraid she's quite right. I had to pull them off her.

How I got my war wound.

The twins did that, Lola?

Yes, it all turned into a bit of a wrestle, I'm afraid. Still, no harm done, eh, Lola?

Would you go and find these boys, please, Briony?

Tell them dinner's ready, and where are their manners?

-Why do I have to go? -Briony, you'll do as you're told, or you'll go straight to your room.

It's a letter! -Give it to me!

They've run away. Who has?

The twins.

"We are going to run away because Lola is so horrid to us and we want to go home.

-"Also, there wasn't a play." -Don't worry.

We'll send out some search parties. They can't have gone far.

Cee, you come with me.






Lola? Are you all right?

I'm sorry. I didn't... I'm sorry.

Who was it?

I saw him.

I saw him.

-It was him, wasn't it? -Yes, it was him.

Lola, who was it?

It was Robbie, wasn't it? Robbie?

-You saw him? -Like you said, he's a sex maniac.

And you don't even know what happened before dinner.

I caught him attacking my sister in the library.

I don't know what he'd have done if I hadn't come in.

-You actually saw him? -Of course I did. Plain as day.

He pushed me to the ground. And then he put his hands over my eyes.

-I couldn't actually... I never actually... -Listen. I've known him my whole life, and I saw him.

Because I couldn't say for sure.

Well, I can. And I will.

Call the police. And she'll be needing a doctor, as well.

-It's all right, dear. It's all right now. Is Robbie back yet?

I haven't seen him.

I know who it was.

-You saw him, then? -Yes, I saw him.

-Just as you see me? -I know it was him.

You know it was him? Or you saw him?

-Yes, I did, I saw him. -With your own eyes?

Yes. I saw him, I saw him with my own eyes.

Well done, darling.

My brother and I found the two of them down by the lake.

You didn't see anyone else?

I wouldn't necessarily believe everything Briony tells you. She's rather fanciful.

When they went looking, I went up to my dad's.

-I did, honest. Why was that?

To tell him all about it.

-I know I shouldn't have opened it. No, you should not.

But at least you've done the right thing now.

Sir, there is someone coming.

-Time you went to bed. -But...



You liars! You liars! Liars! Liars!

Northern France Four years later

I says to him, I says, "You can sit down there, twiddling your thumbs, "waiting to get your head blown off, if you want to.

"I'm off out of it."

Bonsoir monsieur. Bonsoir? Let me do this.

What's his game?

-He says he's got something for us. -Fucking hell!

Wait! We have food for you Bread, sugar And wine!

What are you doing here?

When the retreat started, Panzers attacked, and I was separated from my unit So it's true, the English are retreating

We'll be gone at first light We fought all those years, lost all those dead, now the Germans are in France again

We will come back

we will throw them out I promise you Good luck

Come on, then.

How come a toff like you, talks French and everything, ends up a private?

Not eligible for officers' training if you join direct from prison.

-You're pulling my tit. -No, I'm not.

They gave me a choice. Stay in prison or join the Army.

And for the record, the last thing I am is a toff.

Six months earlier

I'm sorry I'm late, I got lost.

-Hello. -Hello.

-Should we sit down? -Yes, of course.

-I'm sorry, I can't remember, l... -Two. Thank you.

Where are you living?

Tiny flat in Balham. It's ghastly.

-The landlady's rude and horribly nosy. -You look the same.

-Apart from the uniform, of course. -Yes, I'm sorry. I've got to go back

-to the hospital in half an hour. -Oh, God, that...

-Sorry. -No.

Have you been in touch with your family?

No, I told you I wouldn't.

Leon waited outside the hospital last week, I just pushed past him.

Cee, you don't owe me anything.

Robbie, didn't you read my letters?

Had I been allowed to visit you, had they let me every day, -I would have been there every day. -Yes, but...

If all we have rests on a few moments in a library three and a half years ago, then I'm not sure, -I don't know if... -Robbie, look at me.

Look at me.

Come back.

Come back to me.

Dearest Cecilia.

Dearest Cecilia.


A friend of mine has a cottage by the coast.

Said we can borrow it when you're next on leave.

White clapboard with blue-painted window frames.

-I hope this bus never comes. -Here.

Something to think of while you're away.

I love you.

Some poor sod's gonna catch a packet.

My darling. Briony found my address somehow, and sent a letter.

The first surprise was she didn't go up to Cambridge.

She's doing nurse's training at my old hospital.

I think she may be doing this as some kind of penance.

She says she's beginning to get the full grasp of what she did, and what it meant.

She wants to come and talk to me.

I love you. I'll wait for you. Come back.

Come back to me.

Come back. Come back to me.

Come back. Come back to me.

So where we going, guv?

Fucking hate those boots!

I hate them worse than all the fucking Germans put together!

You'll have a job getting back to England in your socks.

Come on, pal, you should be getting dressed.

-If I fell in, would you save me? -Of course.


Thank you.

Thank you! Thank you, thank you!

That's an incredibly bloody stupid thing to do.

I wanted you to save me. -Don't you know how easily you could have drowned?

-You saved me. -Stupid child!

You could have killed us both. Is that your idea of a joke?

I want to thank you for saving my life.

I will be eternally grateful to you.

The story can resume.

Our story can resume. I will simply resume.

Jerry, come and have a go at us in fucking South End.

Or better still, Trafalgar Square. No one speaks the fucking lingo out here.

You can't say, "Pass the biscuit," or "Where's me hand grenade?"

They just shrug. Because they hate us, too. I mean, that's the point.

We fight in France and the French fucking hate us.

Make me Home Secretary, I'll sort this out in a fucking minute.

We got India and Africa, right?

Jerry can have France and Belgium and wherever else they want.

Who's fucking ever been to Poland? It's all about room, empire.

They want more empire, give 'em this shithole, we keep ours, and it's "Bob's your uncle" and "Fanny's your fucking aunt"!

Think about it.

Dearest Cecilia. The story can resume.

The one I had been planning on that evening walk.

I can become again the man who once crossed the Surrey park at dusk in my best suit, swaggering on the promise of life.

The man who, with the clarity of passion, made love to you in the library.

The story can resume.

I will return, find you, love you, marry you. And live without shame.

You can smell the sea.

Fuck me.

-It's like something out of the Bible. Jesus Christ.

Come on, get everybody to clean this mess up now.

We've just arrived, sir. Can you tell us what we're supposed to be doing?

Nothing. Just wait. Where are the ships?

A few made it in yesterday, Luftwaffe blew them to buggery.

Lost 3,000 men when they sank the Lancastria.

High command, in its infinite wisdom, is denying us air cover.

A disgrace, a fucking disaster.

No, look, the thing is, you see, I'm expected back, you see.

There's over 300,000 men on this beach, Private. You'll have to wait your turn.

Just be grateful you're not wounded. I've orders to leave the wounded behind.

No, no, no, leave it, guv! Never trust a sailor on dry land. You're best off out of it.

That's not right.


Can you hear me, laddies?

I'm coming home!

Take from our souls the strain and stress And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace The beauty of Thy peace Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm Let sense be numb, let flesh retire Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire O still, small voice of calm


I have to get something to drink.

You need one. You're grey.

He's gone all grey, can you see?

There. Come on.

All I want's a cup of tea now.

What the fuck you doing?

I'm coming home! Laddie, I'm coming home!

Fuck 'em all! Fuck 'em all! The long and the short and the tall Fuck all the Sergeants and WO1s Fuck all the corporals and their bastard sons

'Cause we're saying goodbye to them all As back to their billets they crawl You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean So cheer up, my lads Fuck 'em all!



Hold up, guv.

Wait here.

Why don't you sit down?

It's so hot in here.

Take off your boots.

I have to get back. I promised her.

To put things right.

And she loves me. She's waiting for me.


Wait, wait, wait.

Hey, what have you done with your boots?

-Look, you're sure you're feeling all right? -Never better.

Now I'm wondering whether the beach really is the best place for dinner.

-I'm not sure, I don't recognise it. -Dunno.

-This'll do, down here. -No.

-No, no, it's further on. -What is?

This place I know, an old cottage with white clapboards and blue-painted window frames.

Aw, yes. That's right, that's where we're going.

-It's close to here. -We're there. This is it.

Here we are, guv. Down here.

That's all right, guv. That's right.

Get your head down. Get your head down. There you go.

Tuck yourself in. Keep yourself warm.

Chew on a bit of this. But quiet like, or they'll all be wanting some.

Try and get some sleep.

Find you.

Love you.

Marry you.

And live without shame.

I love you. Come back. Come back to me.

Bit too much noise, guv'nor. -What?

-What noise? -You keep shouting.

-Some of the lads are getting a bit peeved. -What?

-Christ. You look a bit rough. -Thing is, I've decided to stay on for a bit.

I'm meeting someone, and I'm always keeping her waiting.

Now, listen. Listen to me, guv'nor.

I went out for a Jimmy Riddle just now. Guess what I saw!

They're getting themselves sorted out down on the beach.

The boats are back, and a geezer from the Buffs is marching us down at 7:00.

We're away. We're off home, mate.

So get some more sleep, and no more of your bleeding shouting.

-All right? -I won't say a word.

Wake me before 7:00, would you? Thanks so much.

You won't hear another word from me. Promise.

London Three weeks earlier

Bed castors should be lined up and pointing inwards.

I found three yesterday that weren't. You know who you are.

Which of you were responsible for putting away the blankets today?

I was, Sister. -I don't suppose you can tell us

-what you did wrong? -No, Sister.

Labels are folded to the inside, are they not?

-Yes, Sister. -Do them again.

Nurse Tallis, I'll see you in my office. The rest of you are excused.

-ls this job at all important to you, Tallis? -Very important, Sister.

Yesterday, you were seconded to men's surgical.

When your patient came round from his anaesthetic, it seems the first thing he did was to ask for Briony. Who might Briony be?

-Well, me, Sister. -There is no Briony.

You are Tallis. Nurse Tallis. Is that understood?

Yes, Sister.

There is no Briony.

This is the BBC Home Service. Here is the news.

The BEF, with their French allies, are fighting a desperate battle in the northern zone of the Western Front.

The Allied Forces have not lost cohesion, and their morale is high.

The RAF continues to give all the support in its power to the Allied armies in northeastern France and Belgium. Railways, roads, bridges and enemy troops have been continuously attacked, yesterday...

Thanks. I never could make the scissors work with my left hand.

Mummy always did it for me.

There, you're done.


Night-night, Ponty.

Good night, Tallis.

Don't panic! It's only me.

Fiona, I almost jumped out of my skin.

So this is where you duck to after lights out.

I thought you might be in the middle of some tempestuous romance.

Don't you freeze to death up here?

I love London.

Do you think all of this will be bombed and just disappear?


I don't know.

Do you write about Sister Drummond?

-Do you write about me? -Sometimes.

-Can I look? -I'd rather you didn't. It's private.

I don't see any point in writing a story if you're not going to let anyone read it.

-It's not ready yet. It's unfinished. -What's it about?

-It's complicated. -Yes?

It's just...

It's about a young girl, a young and foolish girl, who sees something from her bedroom window which she doesn't understand, but she thinks she does.

I probably won't ever finish it.

I look at you, Tallis, and you're so mysterious.

I've never been mysterious.

-Do you know what I decided tonight? -What?

I could never marry a man who wasn't in the Royal Navy.

Here we are. Cecilia Tallis.

I think this is her address.

Thank you.

Dear Cecilia. Please don't throw this away without reading it.

As you'll have seen from the notepaper, I'm here at St Thomas' doing my nurses' training.

I decided not to take up my place at Cambridge.

Oh, God.

I decided I wanted to make myself useful. Do something practical.

It says in the newspaper the Army are making strategic withdrawals.

Yes, I saw that.

It's a euphemism for retreat.

No matter how hard I work, no matter how long the hours, I can't escape from what I did and what it meant, the full extent of which I am only now beginning to grasp.

Cee, please write and tell me we can meet.

Your sister, Briony.

So do you? -Do I what?

Have a secret fiancé in France. That's what everyone thinks.

No, of course not.

Imagine not knowing if he'd ever come back.

I've never been in love.

What, never? Not even a crush?

Oh, I had a crush once, when I was 10 or 11.

I jumped into a river to see if he'd save me from drowning.

-Now you're teasing me. -Oh, no. And he did save me.

But as soon as I told him I loved him, the feeling sort of disappeared.

Something's happened.

Outside, quickly.


Excuse me.

Nurse Tallis, you speak a little French, if I remember rightly.

Only school French, Sister.

There's a soldier in Bed 13. Go and sit with him for a minute. Hold his hand.

Off you go.

Here you are at last Sister sent me for a little chat

I remember your sister she was always so nice what's she doing now?

She is a nurse as well Did she finally marry that man she was so in love with?

I've forgotten his name Robbie?

She will soon I hope Robbie yes that's right

And you?

What is your name?


Luc Cornet.

And you?



That's pretty

I remember you now the English girl You remember your first visit to Millau?

I was working by the ovens with my father.

I heard your accent

Can you do me a little favour Tallis?

These bandages are so tight, can you loosen them a bit, please?

Of course

You remember my younger sister, Anne?

She still plays that little Debussy piece do you remember?

She looks so serious when she plays And our croissants, what did you think of them?

The most delicious in Millau Yes. it's the quality of the butter Yes

Is that why you came every day?

Because you know, my mother is very fond of you in her opinion, we should get married in the summer Oh yes?


I hope that's more comfortable

Do you love me?


Can you stay a while?

I'm frightened

-Tallis. -Briony.

Je m'appelle Briony.

Stand up, Nurse Tallis.

Now go and wash the blood off your face.

The Navy has earned our undying gratitude. The Army is undefeated.

Courage has brought them through unconquered, their spirit unbowed.

This is the epic of Dunkirk.

A name that will live forever in the annals of warfare.

In the course of a comprehensive tour, Queen Elizabeth is seen here visiting a chocolate factory in the north of England.

The confectionary magnate and friend of the British Army, Mr Paul Marshall, gave the Queen a tour of the Army Amo factory with his lovely, soon-to-be-wed fiancée, Miss Lola Quincey.

What a mouthwatering couple they are.

Keep the Amo coming. Our boys have a sweet tooth.

Secondly, for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication, that such persons as have not the gift of continence, might marry and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.

Thirdly, it was ordained, for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have the other.

I saw him.

Therefore, if any man can show any just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together...

I know it was him.

...Iet him now speak or forever hold his peace.

I saw him. I saw him with my own eyes.

Let the nursey through.

They're going down to the country today. Never been out of London before.

I hope they get a nice family.

They don't know what they're in for with this lot.

Come on.

I'm looking for Miss Tallis. Cecilia Tallis.

Is she in?

Tallis! Door!

I tried writing. You wouldn't answer.

I have to talk to you.

-So you're a ward sister now? -Yes.


I want to go in front of a judge and change my evidence, Cee.

Don't call me that.

Please don't call me that.

I know what I did was terrible. I don't expect you to forgive me.

Oh, don't worry, I won't.

You're an unreliable witness. They'll never reopen the case.

Well, at least I could tell everyone else what I did.

I can go home and explain to Mummy and Daddy and Leon...

-So what's stopping you? -Well, I wanted to see you first.

They don't want to hear any more about it.

That unpleasantness is all tidied away in the past, thank you very much.


I'll be late. Better get moving.

Excuse me.

He sleeps so deeply.

-What is she doing here? -She wanted to speak to me.

Oh, yes, what about?

The terrible thing I did.

Robbie. Darling.

I'll be quite honest with you.

I'm torn between breaking your neck here and taking you and throwing you down the stairs.

Oh, God.

Do you have any idea what it's like in jail? Of course, you don't.

Tell me, did it give you pleasure to think of me inside?

-No. -But you did nothing about it.

-No. -Do you think I assaulted your cousin?

-No. -Did you think it then?

Yes. But yes and no.

-And what's made you so certain now? -Growing up.

-Growing up? -I was 13.

How old do you have to be to know the difference between right and wrong?

What are you, 18?

Do you have to be 18 before you can bring yourself to own up to a lie?

There are soldiers of 18, old enough to be left to die by the side of the road, -did you know that? -Yes.

Five years ago, you didn't care about telling the truth.

You, all your family, you just assumed that for all my education, I was still little better than a servant. Still not to be trusted!

Thanks to you, they were able to close ranks and throw me to the fucking wolves!

-Robbie! Look at me, look at me. -Don't!

Come back. Come back.

Come back to me.


There isn't much time.

Robbie has to report for duty at 6:00, and he's got a train to catch.

So sit down.

There are some things you're going to do for us.

You'll go to your parents as soon as you can, and you'll tell them everything they need to know to be convinced that the evidence you gave was false.

You'll meet with a solicitor, make a statement, have it signed, witnessed, send copies to us. Is that clear?


You'll write a detailed letter to me explaining everything that happened leading up to you saying you saw me by the lake.

Try to include whatever you can remember of what Danny Hardman was doing that night.

-Hardman? -Yes.

It wasn't Danny Hardman.

It was Leon's friend, Marshall.

I don't believe you.

He's married Lola. I've just come from their wedding.

Lola won't be able to testify against him now.

He's immune.

I'm very, very sorry for the terrible distress that I have caused.

I am very, very sorry.

Just do as we've asked of you.

Write it all down, just the truth, no rhymes. No embellishments, no adjectives.

And then leave us be.

I will, I promise.

I'm sorry. Could we stop for a moment?

Of course. Is something the matter?

I just need a couple of minutes by myself.

...minutes by myself.

Briony Tallis, your new novel, your twenty-first, is called Atonement. It's...


I'm sorry. Could we stop for a moment?

Briony Tallis, I'd like to talk now about your new novel, Atonement, which comes out in a few days to coincide with your birthday.

-It's your twenty-first novel... -It's my last novel.

Oh, really? Are you retiring?

I'm dying.

My doctor tells me I have something called vascular dementia, which is essentially a continuous series of tiny strokes.

Your brain closes down, gradually you lose words, you lose your memory, which for a writer is pretty much the point.

So that's why I could finally write the book, I think. I had to.

And why, of course, it's my last novel.

Strangely enough,

it would be just as accurate to call it my first novel.

I wrote several drafts as far back as my time at St Thomas' Hospital during the War.

I just couldn't ever find the way to do it.

Because the novel is autobiographical, is that right?

Yes, entirely. I haven't changed any names, including my own.

And was that the problem?


I had, for a very long time, decided to tell the absolute truth.

No rhymes, no embellishments.

And I think...

You've read the book, you'll understand why.

I got first-hand accounts of all the events I didn't personally witness, the conditions in prison, the evacuation to Dunkirk, everything.

But the effect of all this honesty was rather pitiless.

You see, I couldn't any longer imagine what purpose would be served by it.

By what? Sorry. Served by honesty?

By honesty.

Or reality.

Because, in fact, I was too much of a coward to go and see my sister in June, 1940.

I never made that journey to Balham.

Do you have any idea what it's like in jail?

So the scene in which I confess to them is imagined.

He sleeps so deeply.


How old do you have to be to know the difference between right and wrong?

And, in fact, could never have happened.


Robbie Turner died of septicaemia at Bray-Dunes on June the first, 1940, the last day of the evacuation.

Cheerio, pal.

And I was never able to put things right with my sister, Cecilia, because she was killed on the 15th of October, 1940, by the bomb that destroyed the gas and water mains above Balham tube station.


My sister and Robbie were never able to have the time together they both so longed for, and deserved.

And which, ever since, I've...

Ever since I've always felt I prevented.

But what sense of hope, or satisfaction, could a reader derive from an ending like that?

So, in the book, I wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia what they lost out on in life.

I'd like to think this isn't weakness or evasion,

but a final act of kindness.

I gave them their happiness.