Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sarah's Key

For two days in 1942 in what would come to be known as the Vel d'Hiv Roundup, approximately 3,000 Parisian Jews were detained in a large stadium, which a present day magazine editor equates with The Superdome, only a million times worse. They were then transported to a transit camp where they would in turn wait to be taken to the concentration camps, all of which was carried about by the French government. "Sarah's Key" involves a young girl who locks her brother in a closet during the roundup and is determined to make her way back to him. The story is told through a modern day reporter who is covering the horrendous event while finding her own personal life intertwined with Sarah's. "Sarah's Key" has a compelling story that is in turns horrific and touching and diminishes it by presenting it as a dual narrative. I did like how the mystery of the past unfolded in the reporter's quest, but it is hard to accept the modern marital strife of the protagonist when paralleled with the past anti-semitic atrocities. The ending of the film is pat and unsatisfying as well. And despite these setbacks, we still have a pretty good film here with several fine elements. Young Mélusine Mayance delivers a wonderful performance as Sarah and Kristin Scott Thomas is good as the reporter. We also get some good though brief supporting work from Aidan Quinn and Niels Arestrup, an older and powerful French actor who has been showing up a lot lately in many strong parts.The film also has some beautifully photographs scenes of the French countryside. "Sarah's Key" being a mixed bag is really disconcerting considering how strong much of the material really is. If the film would have focused more on the past and less on the present, we could have had one of the great films of the year.