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Atonement
Photograph: Working Title Films

Revisiting the scene of ‘Atonement’s heartbreaking final kiss

Where to find the West End location of Robbie and Cecilia’s final farewell

Written by
Thomas Hobbs
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Atonement’ is a movie full of lingering moments. The covert library liaison, the Dunkirk tracking shot, Briony’s blunder that kicks its multi-threaded story into gear. Few, though, are as heartbreaking as the snatched final encounter between doomed lovers Robbie and Cecilia in a bustling corner of London. They don’t know it, but they’ll never see each other again: torn apart by war and fate. We went to find the spot where this achingly romantic moment was captured in Joe Wright’s British period piece

The location 11 Great Scotland Yard, SW1.

The scene Tragic lovers Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley) share one final kiss in Blitz-era London before she hops on a red bus and he heads off to fight the Nazis.

Then Great Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police’s HQ from 1829 to 1890, is no longer the bustling hive of activity that once saw the police investigating the Jack the Ripper slayings. ‘It’s now a backwater that offers a nice contrast to the busier nearby Whitehall,’ says architectural historian Edmund Bird. ‘Its history gives it an elegance that’s perfect for a romantic scene.’ 

Great Scotland Yard
Photograph: JESS HAND PHOTOGRAPHER

Now Although the Met’s former home is now a hotel, the area (named after a house English King Edgar gave to Scottish King Kenneth III in the tenth century) is frozen in time. ‘It’s barely changed since the Edwardian period,’ says Bird. ‘Only one bomb fell on the street during the Blitz, so it still looks like it would have done during the war.’ The street also served as home to the Ministry of Magic in ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ and ‘The Deathly Hallows – Part 1’. It’s a short stroll from Charing Cross station, if you want to relive Robbie and Cecilia’s final glances. Bring tissues. 

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