Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sarah's Key

Directed (and co-wrote the screenplay) by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Hugo Productions, 2010-2011. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, and Adian Quinn.

Genre: Drama, War

Question: Have you ever made a decision as a young child that profoundly affected the rest of your existence? Also, did you ever go digging into other people's past but it ends up altering your path? Well, Sarah's Key takes two stories and intertwines them because of one common element while answering those questions from two people's perspectives.

As I try to expand my love of movies (yes, it is possible for it to get bigger) by choosing a foreign film today, I am discovering that I have probably missed out on some great films due to my early prejudices. Yes, I have seen many foreign films in the past but I never went intentionally looking for them - at least not in the theatre. They were always recommended and sometimes people had to persuade me until I would acquiesce.  It's not that I didn't like foreign language films but I am such a visual person, so having to read and then see the action always left me feeling like I missed something. So, I am grabbing a glass of red wine now (and silently kicking myself) as I get ready to write the review for Sarah's Key. However, I will hunt down foreign films now to put in my review repertoire.

Now I am not sure where I should start with this review because I am still a little overwhelmed by the story of Sarah's Key. As I stated there are two stories here. The first story-line takes place in modern-day France with Kristin Scott Thomas as a journalist researching the Velodrome d'hiver Round-up but soon discovers a family connection to that time period. I will admit I am not a history buff and wasn't aware of this tragic part of world history until yesterday.

The second story-line has to do with that horrendous moment in time in France in July of 1942. This is where you meet Sarah, a little Jewish girl, who along with her family, is part of the Round-up. Also, this is when Sarah decides something that she has to live with the rest of your life. You know I am not going to tell you, but I will say that when then decision finally reaches the result I was a complete and utter mess.

I believe many of this story needs to stay a mystery, not just for my normal secretive reviews, but to allow you to fully immerse yourself in these two stories. The modern-day and the past tale go back and forth not so much symbiotically but, I think, for an emotional release. Sometimes during the harshest parts, the emotional aspects of the past tragedy, it was nice break to come out of that tale. And I will say for the first half there were some parts that were hard to witness.

The modern-day story line was interesting but not nearly as tragic or emotional as the other story. Yes, this is cryptic but a lot of this story was about a woman, Scott Thomas, researching her husband's family connection to those two horrendous days 60+ years ago. I want to keep it a mystery for you all.

The acting was very good. Of course, Kristin Scott Thomas was spectacular (and is one of the most beautiful women on-screen today) but there were a few others that I have to mention. There was Niels Arestrup. I think I recognized him but I am still not sure from what. Here was this elderly man with the kindest blue eyes that showed extreme compassion for the little girl, Sarah. Some of his expressions just moved me. That is why I have to mention him even though he isn't in the movie very much.

However, the one who stole the entire movie was the little girl who played the young Sarah, Melusine Mayance. She was amazing. She had to show high and extreme emotions that not many of us ever have to come close to. There was one scene that proved this little girl can act - which I won't describe - but I was hoping the others in the theatre didn't hear me sobbing during it. Her performance caused my reaction and, OK,  I am a little sensitive but this scene was really the heart of the movie.

Sarah's Key is an excellent movie but I will admit the ending became a little slow or convoluted. Plus, the emotional draw to the story lines had already reached their pinnacle but the movie-makers kept trying to drag a little more out. I don't think it was as powerful but still an outstanding film overall.

Don't let the subtitles keep you away. Sarah's Key is worth it. (Based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay.)

My favorite part: Realizing I could read the subtitles and still watch the movie and catch every nuance.

My least favorite part: Learning that things like the Velodrome actually happened.

Note: Sarah's Key has already been released overseas late last year but only just opened here in the US this past month. I believe the film is already available for rental or downloading outside of the US.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 111 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

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