Sarah’s Key [2011]

A deeply touching human story filled with emotions and heartbreak is rare in any movie season, especially summer. That’s what makes “Sarah’s Key” an exhilarating gift. It’s one of the year’s nicest surprises, and I hope moviegoers will find a reason to watch it, despite the fact that multiplexes are filled with blockbusters, superheroes, and well…”Monte Carlo”. By way of plot, I’ll say only this: Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American born journalist named Julia who lives in France with her husband and daughter. While researching an article about the fate of French Jews during World War II, she stumbles onto an incredible story involving a little girl named Sarah (played with perfection by newcomer Melusine Mayance) who was separated from her family. Julia becomes fascinated with the story, and makes it her duty to find out whatever happened to the girl. Meanwhile, and through carefully crafted flashbacks, we learn more about Sarah, and her attempt to escape imprisonment at a concentration camp in order to rescue her brother, whom she left at home, locked in a closet! It’s because the parallel stories- modern day and wartime- are told in a straightforward fashion, that the movie works so well. It’s left for us, the audience, to respond to all this, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one whose emotions will be stirred. Yet as a film, “Sarah’s Key” is not a masterpiece like “Schindler’s List” or the superior “Incendies”, which also struggles with survivor’s guilt. But it’s still a compelling drama, masterfully told and brilliantly acted. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner adapted the novel, in collaboration with Serge Joncour, and together, they have crafted a mesmerizing mind-bender to haunt your dreams.

Rating: 3/4

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