As an avid film fanatic, I talk about the world of movies a lot – with friends, with colleagues, with other obsessives like myself, and oftentimes the conversation turns to two strong opinions: loves and hates. Which actor do you love most? What films do you hate? What scene makes you want to tear your hair out, which character do you think you could fall in love with if you had the chance to meet them in real life?
Keira Knightley comes up a lot in these particular types of conversations – but hardly ever in the ‘love’ category. Why do people seem to dislike her so much? Her affected pout? Her accent? Her particular brand of acting and screen presence? Whatever it is, I’ve met a lot of people who have beef with Keira. I’d be tired of defending her if I didn’t love her so much.
In this new feature I’m hoping will be a common post in our beloved Front Room Cinema Towers, we take a look at something that’s proven to be not too popular with audiences and fans, whether that be actors, characters, films, directors, tropes… you name it, we’ll find it. After all, it can only take one person to stand up for something for others to come creeping out of the closet and admit their love too. And if you’re not so hot on the topic – tell us why! We love a good debate.
So without further ado, in defense of Ms Knightley, I bring you five of my favourite Keira moments – they say it only takes three olives for you to love them…
Cecilia Talllis – Atonement
Atonement was astoundingly and deservedly successful when released in 2007, and remains a favourite today for its excellent cast, beautiful use of cinematography and classic weepie narrative; it’s certainly one of the most played DVDs in my collection, that’s for sure. In Atonement, which was adapted from the Ian McEwan book of the same name, Knightley plays Cecilia, a young aristocrat in 1930s rural England. She is in love with one of the family servants (James McAvoy), who is wrongly framed for a heinous crime he did not commit, and before the two can resolve the issues surrounding that accusation, the war splits them up for years on end. Knightley is a graceful and perfectly cold Cecilia – in the short amount of time leading up to Robbie’s departure, we already know the depth of unresolved sexual tension from a handful of scenes, quiet exchanges and longing glances. Keira shines in this role, and the barely-restrained emotion and turmoil is excellently portrayed.
Georgiana Cavendish – The Duchess
Critics hailed Knightley’s performance in this 2008 costume drama as one of her most mature to date – and it was. By then, the Pirates franchise was over for her and already as tedious and well-worn as an old ugly suit – Keira needed something to showcase her chops and keep up the reputation that Atonement had built up for her. Her buoyant and multi-layered portrayal of the Duchess helped carry a rather slow film, and made it a rewarding watch despite its flaws.
Ruth – Never Let Me Go
It’s always hard to a play a character no one really likes. Especially when you’re an actress that people find difficult to warm to. This is why I commend Knightley for this role – as Ruth, the selfish, manipulative ‘bad corner’ of the Garfield/Mulligan/Knightley love triangle, she is unafraid to appear ugly – both emotionally and physically. Her last few scenes are heartbreaking, and the darkness of her character is a really integral part of this wonderful adaptation.
Penny – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Who’d have thought Keira would play a manic pixie dream girl – and nail it? Finally a film comes along where I hear people say the words, ‘it made me like Keira Knightley’ – a film where yes, she plays a MPDG clutching vinyl records and wearing chunky knitwear and converse, but also gives emotional and warm depth to her character that is lost on some other films of the genre (not naming any names… Elizabethtown). In this far fetched but ultimately loveable apocalypse comedy, she tries her hand at being funny and engaging – and succeeds.
Anna Karenina – Anna Karenina
Proving yet again that she is the queen of the costume drama, Knightley transcends in this breathtaking adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel. Russian high society! Horse racing! Agriculture and politics! Comedy and tragedy! Theatre and drama! Soldiers, beards, vodka, oh my! It’s fast approaching the end of the year and this is still near to the top of my favourite films of 2012 list: it’s a beauty, and Knightley plays Anna with such dedicated ferocity that we can all forgive her for A Dangerous Method, at last. Stunning.
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Teri is a former film student from Edinburgh and currently works in book publishing in London. She is a fan of bad taste films, horror, fantasy, science fiction and vintage teen comedy and has been described by her friends as a “proper nerd” and a human imdb. She can be found speaking nonsense under the twitter name @msenidcoleslaw and scribbling similar nonsense on her blog Enid’s Revenge