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MOVIE REVIEW: Sarah’s Key

A stunningly powerful Holocaust film

  • Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia Jarmond in "Sarah's Key."
  • Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia Armond in "Sarah's Key."
  • Melusine Mayance as Sarah in "Sarah's Key."
  • Sarah's Key
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Sarah's Key is a very moving adaptation of the best-seller by Tatiana De Rosnay. The film has the tough task of covering four generations, and not being four hours long. The movie pulls it off nicely.

This is easily the most moving film you’ll see all year. Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American journalist living with her French husband and daughter. She talks her editor into letting her do a story on the French Jews that were rounded up in World War II, in an area she’s currently living. She ends up stumbling across a stunningly haunting story.

Some might find it a little contrived and not buy into the few coincidences. I was chilled by the skeletons that she uncovers in these various closets, and moved by the acts of violence (and kindness), of a few characters during the war.

Sarah is played by a child actor named Melusine Mayance and she’s perfectly cast. She’s separated from her family and determined to make it home to her apartment to let her little brother out of the closet she locked him in. This was quick thinking on her part, as the family was being rounded up and she felt this would be the safest place for him.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner also co-wrote the screenplay, and De Rosnay has already expressed pleasure with the film version.

The parallel stories – modern day with the journalist and wartime with Sarah – are interwoven nicely in an understated way that worked. It was a tad uneven at times, and there were a few scenes that didn’t work. One involved Aidan Quinn walking away as Thomas is explaining something to him, and another had young staff members on the magazine debating how they would’ve handled the situation if they were around in 1942.

It was refreshing to see a film with a married couple having some problems in a way that seemed realistic. They sounded like adults as they discussed the things that bothered them. When the husband felt his wife was getting obsessed by the stories she was involved in, there wasn’t screaming or glasses breaking. And when the wife is annoyed by her workaholic husband, she politely asks him to put his cell phone away at the restaurant. When he pulls it out in the car during a tearful argument, she threatens to take a cab.

A story came out recently that had scientists listing The Champ as the saddest movie of all-time. The study involved thousands of people that were wired up to machines and tears and brain waves were monitored. Watching a film about children during the Holocaust is always sad, but I really can’t remember being this happy and sad during a movie in a long time.

You’ll be hearing about this when Oscar nominations are announced.

 

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  • Rating: 4 of 5