In 1935, Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), a 13-year-old girl from a wealthy English family, has just finished writing a play. As Briony attempts to stage the play with her cousins, they get bored and decide to go swimming.
Briony stays behind and witnesses a significant moment of sexual tension between her older sister, Cecilia (Keira Knightley), and Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), a servant’s son, a man that Briony has a childish crush on. Robbie returns home and writes several drafts of letters to Cecilia, including one that is explicit and erotically charged. He does not, however, intend to send it and sets it aside.
On his way to join the Tallis family celebration, Robbie asks Briony to deliver his letter, only to later realize that he has mistakenly given her the prurient draft. Briony secretly reads the letter and is simultaneously disgusted and jealous. That evening, Cecilia and Robbie meet in the library, where they make love and then confess their love for one another.
During the act, Briony watches through the partially open door and her confused emotions about Robbie become heightened. At dinner it is revealed that the twin cousins have run away. Briony goes off alone into the woods looking for them and stumbles upon a man running away from apparently raping her teenage cousin Lola (Juno Temple).
Lola claims that she does not know the identity of her attacker, but in a fit of pique the still-wounded Briony tells everyone, including the police, that she saw Robbie commit the act. She shows Robbie’s shocking letter to her mother. Everyone believes her story except for Cecilia. Robbie is arrested and sent to prison.
Director: Joe Wright
Year of Release: 2007
Character to watch: James McAvoy as Robbie Turner.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?
When you’re done watching the movie and journaling, please come back and post your comments.