If Juno features young characters too willing to abandon their childhoods and bravely face the consequences, then Atonement features the opposite - a young girl is thrust onto an adult situation she is unprepared for and spends a life of regretting her actions. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis lives a life of privelage and posesses the rich imagination and fantasy life of a writer. A series of misunderstandings lead her to the mistaken judgement of local boy Robbie Turner. The misunderstandings turn tragic when Briony is asked to be the sole eyewitness to a horrible crime that she blames on Robbie, half-understanding that he is innocent, but convincing herself nonetheless. Briony's sister, Celia was in love with Robbie and the false accusation changes all three lives with dire results. The regret cuts Briony so deeply that years later, even in her fantasies, she doesn't let Celia and Robbie forgiver her.
Atonement is up for seven Academy Awards and actually has a shot a a few of them. The best bet is for music - Dario Marianelli's brilliant score features a typewriter as a percussion instrument, perfectly signifying Briony's dangerous fantasy life at precise moments in the film. It also has a good shot at Cinematography, most notably for the virtuosic five-minute tracking shot that involves a quarter mile of beach and a cast of thousands. Art Direction was also great in Atonement and will probably win. Less likely to come to fruition are Atonement's nominations for Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actress where it is simply outmatched by its competition. As for Best Picture, it does feature many things Academy voters traditionally gravitate toward: an epic storyline, a romantic plot, a period setting, people with accents, war scenes, and a prestigous literary adaptation. It might just take the top prize, but its lack of a nomination for Best Director is a serious hit, showing that while the Academy might recognize it as the best looking film of the year, it will not nescessarily be named the Best Picture.