Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Down the years there have been many films documenting Nazi atrocities against Jewish communities - from the horrors of life in Poland (The Pianist, Schindler's List), to the impact in Germany (The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) to to the despair of the death camps (Fateless, Life Is Beautiful).

Lately, French filmmakers have joined the fray, with Family Tree examining the legacy of concentration camp persecution and, in the past 12 months, The Round Up and Sarah's Key have both turned their attentions to the infamous - but arguably little known outside of France - Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. This atrocity, in 1942, saw French police arrest somewhere in the region of 13,000 Jews in Paris - under the chilling Nazi operation title "Spring Breeze" - before penning them in a nearby velodrome and interment camp as a stop-gap on the way to the horror of Auschwitz.

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Based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, Gilles Paquet-Brenner's film documents the impact of the Round Up through the legacy it has left in the present day. The film flips from the 1942 story of the Starzynski family - and, in particular, 10-year-old Sarah (Mélusine Mayance), whose key of the title is used to tragically lock her baby brother in a cupboard - and the tale of journalist Julia (the ever-watchable Kristin Scott Thomas), who through the course of her investigation of Sarah, finds her own inlaws have a less than savoury connection to the girl and her family.

The film suffers because the story of Sarah and her bravery and loss back in 1942 are much more compelling and hard-hitting than the comparatively twee modern 'drama' concerning - for the most part - whether Thomas will go through with a pregnancy or, as her husband (Frederic Pierrot) would prefer, have a termination. There is also an over-sentimental and sugary aspect that sits at odds with the grim events being depicted.

Initially, we are with Sarah and the pace of events moves swiftly, but as the action shifts increasingly to the present day, all the impetus of the early scenes is lost. The drama of Julia's modern life quite simply can't compete with the history lesson that has gone before and it is only thanks to the compelling nature of Scott Thomas's performance that you stay with the dragged out denoument as the action creaks over the finish line.

Reviewed on: 07 Aug 2011
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A journalist uncovers family secrets that link her to a young Jewish girl persecuted 60 years previously.
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Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Writer: Tatiana De Rosnay, Serge Joncour, Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frédéric Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Dominique Frot, Gisèle Casadesus, Aidan Quinn, Natasha Mashkevich, Arben Bajraktaraj, George Birt, James Gerard, Frederick Guillaud

Year: 2010

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France


SSFF 2010

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