Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Film Review: THE READER (2008)

Director: Stephen Daldry
Running time: 119 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 20th January 2010.


This is another film that has had critical acclaim, in particular for the performance of Kate Winslet, but more of that later. For the most part the story is told in flashback, but this does not distract the viewer because it is done in large sections. The story begins in Germany in 1958…

A teenage schoolboy, Michael Berg is heading home in the rain; he is feeling unwell and finds himself in the entrance to some flats. He has been sick and a woman, Hanna Schmitz, cleans him up and walks him home. A doctor is called and he is diagnosed with scarlet fever and consigned to bed for three months. He has not forgotten the woman who helped him and goes to see her with some flowers as a thank you. There is an instant attraction between the two and they end up in bed together. They continue to see each other and eventually Hanna persuades Michael to read for her. This becomes a regular thing, he would read to her and then they would make love. Then one day Hanna gets news at work that she is to be promoted from her job as a tram conductor and would have to work in the office. She is not pleased and ends up having a row with Michael. It’s his birthday as well. For reasons unknown at the time, when Michael has gone to his birthday party, she packs her bags and leaves. We now go forward in time to 1966 where Michael is now a law student in Berlin. He is in an advanced class and they are going to watch the trials of some Nazi war criminals. They take their places in the gallery and suddenly, as he’s sorting out his notebook, Michael hears a voice he remembers. It is Hanna, and she is one of the accused! I won’t say too much more, not wanting to be accused myself of giving away too many spoilers.

This is a really well made film drama, it’s not the kind of thing I’d usually watch, but I found it really compelling. A tremendous performance from Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz, I thought she played it perfectly. I also have to give praise to David Kross as the young Michael Berg and Ralph Fiennes as the older Michael Berg, both put in stellar performances.

Although it’s still a touchy subject matter, the Holocaust, I found it was handled very sensitively and fairly. I don’t want to say too much about it for fear of spoilers, but I found the ending quite touching. I think the only slight niggle I had was, towards the end there were a lot of long silences between dialogue which I did find slightly distracting. Apart from that, a really good romantic drama and I can recommend it to you.

My score: 7.8/10

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