" It was in the television adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty that it first became impossible to ignore this 25-year-old actress. She'd just left drama college when she stepped into the role of the brittle, beautiful Catherine, scathing and self-mutilating.
And she has followed that with a series of memorable appearances on stage and screen; she was more interesting than Billie Piper in ITV's Mansfield Park, and shone alongside her in a tiny part in the BBC's The Ruby in the Smoke. But at the same time she made her mark at the National Theatre, with a vivid cameo as a sex-crazed schemer in Nicholas Hytner's updated version of George Etherege's The Man of Mode.
Exciting though it must have been to be cast by Woody Allen in his London-based comedy Cassandra's Dream, she was unlucky that the film has won lukewarm reviews and is not yet scheduled for British release.
Yet even without this, 2008 is undoubtedly a significant year for Atwell. She begins it at the National once more, playing opposite Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins in Major Barbara. Then autumn will bring the release of the film of Brideshead Revisited, in which she plays Julia Flyte.
It will be hard for a generation of viewers of the TV version to banish memories of Diana Quick from their minds, but Atwell shares some qualities with her predecessor: a lustrous beauty combined with a quick intelligence and the capacity to suggest hidden depths beneath a tranquil surface. She is being compared to Keira Knightley (with whom she stars in another film released next year, The Duchess) - but if she fulfils her current potential, she might just be better than that."
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