Joe Wright and Keira Knightley have turned into quite the pair, beginning their cinematic relationship with Pride and Prejudice and advancing it artistically through Atonement and now Anna Karenina. Their three-film run through great literature has been widely acclaimed and mutually beneficial, and it doesn’t seem like their partnership will end any time soon.

For Wright, observing Knightley over the years has been utterly rewarding, which he openly expresses to any reporter.

“Keira, I’ve watched grow from stunning ingénue to great actress, and I think she reveals herself to be a great actress in this movie,” Wright told me and a table of film critics at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. “She’s very very focused and very dedicated, and I really appreciate that. She does a lot of prep, as I do.”

Wright was every bit the British director, shuffling in dry humor with self-deprecating musings and pensive storytelling. For a director who relied on excessive theatrics and visual showmanship, his personality was surprisingly deadpanned. He’s the sort of guy you feel you’ve known casually for years. He and Knightley have become so comfortable, it’s almost like they’re family.

“She and I are very close,” Wright admitted. “We talk a lot. We’re kind of like siblings. We also argue sometimes, but kind of like siblings. We know that even if we argue, we’re still going to be brother and sister.”

Knightley also referred to Wright as a “sibling,” which could be a product of doing far too many roundtable interviews over the years, but there’s clearly a familial connection between them. They are both exceedingly bright, enhance each other as artists, and have developed an uncanny sense for what the other is thinking. That’s a recipe for great filmmaking.

“There is an amazing amount of trust,” Knightley said. “I think that’s sort of the overriding thing within the relationship, even when we have our bickering moments.”

Evidently, the two of them are used to each other. But Knightley has definitely changed over the years, drawing on her own personal experiences and maturation to capture the essence of the older Anna Karenina (the already married, love-torn Karenina is quite different from Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, who is just coming out into the world of courtship. That was where her journey began with Wright.)

“I’m a 27-year-old woman. I would think it kind of strange if I had those romantic notions about relationships that you should have when you’re in your teens,” a somewhat cynical Knightley said when asked if she believed in “love conquers all” as a concept.

Grown up or not, Knightley proved lovely and delightful, even as she talked of listening to depressing classical music (Elgar is among her preferences). She has always been a fine actress, but anyone who spends a few minutes with her realizes there’s tremendous depth flowing the channels of her brain, and that should allow her to continue to cultivate – especially if it’s under the tutelage of her “brother,” Joe Wright.