119 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2011
The story of a 1942 Jewish family being evicted from their home in Paris and sent to a camp is interwoven with the plot of a modern-day reporter trying to determine what happened to the little girl in the family. Scenes of the fate of Jewish people at the time are always powerful to watch, with this one being no exception. The anguish of families being separated is realistically portrayed, but their eventual fate is not depicted. The story revolves around the little girl, Sarah, trying to determine the fate of her brother. The other story features the always good Kristin-Scott Thomas, doing a story on the eviction of Jews from Paris, and focusing on understanding the fate that befell Sarah. This is a powerful film that will captivate the viewer.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Part of the dangers inherent in adapting a wildly popular and beloved novel is that if you miss the mark, even in the slightest, you risk antagonizing a core audience that will be brutal in its appraisal. "Sarah's Key" is such a story. This adaptation of Tatiana De Rosnay's memorable bestseller, however, strikes the right balance which should appease both fans of the novel and new viewers alike. This is an impeccably mounted production that straddles contemporary drama with mysteries from the past. As the first half of the picture unfolded, I truly felt as if I were seeing one of the most effective and affecting films of the year. It is that good. Once a pivotal moment is reached in the story, however, the narrative momentum takes a sharp turn and the movie loses some of its dramatic imperative. Don't get me wrong, it's still a solid feature--but the first hour is so good, the second half pales a bit in comparison.
The plot drives you forward with the fascinating and harrowing story of a young girl named Sarah set amidst the round-up of Jews in 1942 France. Sarah's tale is intercut with modern sequences in which Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist about to inhabit an apartment once occupied by Sarah's family. Scott Thomas becomes intrigued by the history of the residence as her husband's family acquired the property late in 1942. This leads her to be obsessed in finding out the truth of the those that were forced to give up the apartment. While Scott Thomas is terrific, it is Sarah's tale that really resonates. Sent to the camps, divided from her family, desperate to find her brother--I was captivated, horrified, and excited by her journey. She is a great character leading the viewer on a devastating path. A moment halfway through the story stands as one of the highpoints in film this year. But after that moment, Sarah all but disappears from the film. Instead of being a pivotal lead, she becomes more of an enigma. And the focus shifts firmly to Scott Thomas tracking down the girl. This mystery element is fine, and has its moments, but nothing compares to Sarah's own voice.
The difference between the first half of the film and the second is like night and day. One is a story lived, one is a story told. It is a dichotomy that is also showcased in the novel, but I didn't feel the void left by Sarah's absence so astutely on the page. Melusine Mayance is unforgettable as the young Sarah, and Scott Thomas is at the top of her game. Whether or not you've read the novel, this is an easy recommendation. It is top tier filmmaking for adult audiences. The first hour of "Sarah's Key" is burned into my brain! I would rate the film in two parts: 5 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the second half. So, for me, this ranks at 4 1/2 stars which I will gladly round up for its power and scope. Check it out! KGHarris, 11/11.
88 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2011
FILM RATING: 4 stars
The best movie I've seen in 2011 so far is Sarah's Key (2010). This French-English import is one of those little "sleeper" movies that totally surprises you and blows you away when you see it. Sarah's Key has a very emotional core to it that really looks into the human condition from multiple perspectives. And it searches for the "truth" within. This is a movie much in the vein of Schindler's List (1993), The Pianist (2002), The Reader (2008), and The English Patient (1996). It's not exactly "light" fare. But it's also not quite as dark as Schindler's List or The Pianist. I found the weaving of the two main story lines, one past and one present, to be perfect. It's not always easy for a filmmaker to pull together past and present set stories, with actors playing the same character at various ages, but director Gilles Paquet-Brenner found a way to do it brilliantly. And the same can be said for the way he weaves together both French and English languages into the movie. I never felt like I was "working" to follow the dialogue through reading subtitles. Granted, the movie is only partially subtitled. Parts of it are in English and parts are in French.
The story centers around the events of the French round-up of its own Jewish citizens in July 1942. That's right...the French, not the Germans. Of course I'm sure the French were feeling pressure from the Germans during the time. And yet it's hard to overlook the fact that the French were just as guilty of genocide as the Germans and Russians. One can truly understand why there was a "World" war at this time. Sarah's Key is simply sharing another piece of the puzzle that we've been reluctant to look at until recently because of how ugly the puzzle is. The impact of this ugly mindset at the time spreading from country to country across the globe must have been like a virus, gradually infecting each host and getting them from within. The opening scenes with the capture of Sarah's family and their move to an internment camp at Auschwitz are gripping to say the least. Sarah, played brilliantly by young actress Mélusine Mayance, makes a choice on how to save her younger brother from the horrors she anticipates will fall upon them. But that choice has consequences, as we soon find out. I don't want to give too much of the story away, since it is much better to let the movie unfold it for you.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays a modern journalist, investigating this historic incident, while at the same time unravelling a very personal and ironic connection to it. The film does require that you let go of what could be too "coincidental" for reality. But remember, this is a fictional movie at the end of the day, inspired by real events. And movies by their very nature, are contrived to some degree. I never found myself getting lost in my mind thinking about how unrealistic some of the story arcs were. Instead, I simply felt emotionally engaged in the suspenseful and thrilling discovery of all of the secrets that Sarah's Key possesses. And I credit all of the talented artists who contributed to making that possible in this film. The writing, editing, cinematography, production design, acting, music and sound are top notch for this small indie film rumored to be made for less than $10 million. Sarah's Key is an amazing accomplishment for so little money, and a reminder to Hollywood that it's not the size of the budget of a movie that really matters for its quality. To me its the assembly and collaboration of many talented people unified to tell a great story.
There are two scenes that really stand out for me in the film. The first being the opening with Sarah and her brother tickling and giggling with each other under the covers in bed. The director is clearly showing us the innocent fun times of childhood. The camera work there and that little slice of "happy" to start the film with are an incredible contrast to the darker more "adult" tone of the rest of the film. The second scene that really caught my eye is when Sarah and a fellow young female companion are floating in a murky, muddy river, cleansing themselves. Both of these scenes are just small, idealized, dreamy cinematic sequences that on their own, offer needed artistic moments of escape from the story. Within any horrific context, there's always still something beautiful to be discovered and seen if one looks for it. And director Paquet-Brenner shares that.
Music composer Max Richter has created an unbelievably perfect music score for Sarah's Key that not only elevates the film, but is an incredible work to listen to all on its own. The score has mostly a classic sound to it, but Richter also incorporates bits of modern music composition and style as well. It's one of the best film scores I've heard in years. Within the film, the score gives many scenes their emotional gravity, as is typically the case. But something about Richter's music here stands out from the typical score. And you'll know it when you hear it.
I could spend a lot more time discussing the themes, ideas and incredible filmmaking prowess present in Sarah's Key, but I firmly believe in letting movies speak for themselves as well. I've given you a little to chew on and hopefully inspire you to see this film, even though on the surface (or by its book cover), Sarah's Key looks like a "heavy" film. I challenge you to watch it and grab on to it in some manner. It's movies like this that really give cinema its name. And I'm glad to see that we are still making these films, especially within the broader worldwide cinematic context we are now within.
At the end of Sarah's Key, my eyes were red from the tears that flowed throughout the film. And my mind was speechless as I just embraced the very strong emotional connection I felt with the story and the film. I'm personally always looking for movies that can give me that kind of experience. Don't get me wrong, I love the epic, action-filled extravaganzas like Inception (2010) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) as well. But it's small films like Sarah's Key that more often fill my cinematic diet now with the nutrition that I need.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A serious story of the French persecution of their Jewish citizens during WWII, Sarah's Key is an impelling tale of a young girl's struggle with her captivity and the consequences of her actions. Set in Paris in 1942 and 2009, The film switches back and forth between the 1940s and 2000s as the plot develops.
The story is told by an American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) who in 2009 discovers that her French husband's family bought a dwelling that had been occupied by a Jewish family before the internment. Julia becomes fascinated with the history and resolves to discover the truth concerning the events of 1942.
The Jewish family Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski and their children are rounded up by the French police in 1942. The family lost all their possessions, them they were separated and sent to different work camps before being transported to Auschwitz.
Unlike many films about the Holocaust, Sarah's Key does not focus upon the death camps or the killing of thousands of Jews. Instead, this story is about Sarah who locks her little brother in a closet to protect him when the French police come to arrest her father. Unfortunately the police take her and her mother as well and sarah is unable to return home to release her brother from the closet. Sarah becomes focused upon escaping the police so she can rescue her brother.
The film does show some of the initial suffering of those Jews who are arrested by the French. There are several graphic scenes of police brutality and indifference of the general population to the plight of those captured.
Julia Jarmond Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent as Julia Jarmond, and Niels Arestrup is outstanding as the French farmer who aids Sarah. However ten year old Melisine Mayance carries the movie as the young Sarah Starzynski. Mayance is talented and according to her director (DVD special effects) a gifted natural actress.
Sarah's Key is a gripping movie. The story is based upon a best selling novel.
I recommend this film.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2012
A 2010 French drama "Sarah's Key" ("Elle s'appelait Sarah") has two stories to tell, one about a 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance), who hides her younger brother Michel in a secret closet on 16 July, 1942, when Paris police arrested the Jewish population at the orders of the Nazis. Before they are transported by the police, Sarah locks the door, not knowing that she may not be able to come back here again.
The other story, set in 2009, is about an American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), who, after inheriting the apartment Sarah lived in (the fact Julia does not know), starts investigating the truths about the events that happened about 67 years ago.
Based on Tatiana De Rosnay's book of the same title (which I haven't read), "Sarah's Key" employs a double narrative in which the story goes back and forth in time, and like most double narrative structure, one half of the film is less interesting than the other. I don't think we need the story of Julia, a character we really don't care, despite Kristin Scott Thomas's fine acting for which she was nominated for César.
The real star, or I should say heroine, of the film is Mélusine Mayance playing young Sarah, who has to go through grueling hardships to keep her promise with her little brother. Unfortunately she exits the story a bit too early, and the film slowly loses momentum after that. Why didn't filmmakers focus one story instead of two when they should have known that the film is "Sarah's Key," not "Julia's"?
Those who want to know more about "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" may be interested in a 2010 French film "The Round Up" (" La Rafle") starring Gad Elmaleh, Mélanie Laurent and Jean Reno.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Sarah's Key is not a bad film. If you had never seen "Schindler's List" or read Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" or been exposed to stories where "the events of the past are uncovered by someone in the present, affecting that person in the future" you might think Sarah's Key extraordinarily packed with pathos and humanity, along with a withering indictment against the Holocaust. The always-wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas is featured as a modern day reporter who researches a story about Jews who were rounded up in Paris in the early part of the Nazi's control and extinction. As good as Scott-Thomas is, her "story" is a small and comparatively unimportant one compared to the portions set 70 years ago. Meryl Streep's recent "The Iron Lady" was all but ruined (in my opinion, as Streep won the Academy Award) by the flashback sequences between the later years Margaret Thatcher - who was senile and feeble - and the earlier, robust Dame Thatcher who rose from plain beginnings to be prime minister.) So it is in "Sarah's Key" - sticking to the Holocaust story would have made a stronger, shorter, movie. It is important, as Holocaust "deniers" unintentionally remind us, that we NOT forget the atrocities of history lest they be repeated - and to honor the victims. There have even been superb post-Schindler's movies - from "The Pianist" to "Inglourious Basterds". Sarah's Key, like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, slightly diminishes the narrative of the Holocaust by diluting it. Still - not a bad film.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2012
SARAH'S KEY, novel:Tatiana de Rosnay, film:Gilles Paquel-Brenner
The best plot summary of this film are words taken from a starred review by Publishers Weekly of the novel appearing on the Metacritic internet site: "Julia Jarmond, an American journalist married to a Frenchman, is commissioned to write an article about the notorious Vel d'Hiv round up, which took place in Paris in 1942. She stumbles upon a family secret which will link her forever to the destiny of a young Jewish girl, Sarah. Julia learns that the apartment she and her husband Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand's family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported... She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers - especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive - the more she uncovers about Bertrand's family, about France and, finally, herself."
This is a French film that stars the acclaimed actress Kristin Scott Thomas as the journalist, a wonderful and versatile Mélusine Mayance as the young Sarah, Niels Arestrup as the farmer who hides Sarah from the Germans, Frédéric Pierrot as Jarmond's husband, and American actor Aiden Quinn in a small but stellar role in the last third of the film. Although it is a Holocaust movie, there are very few graphic scenes and several glimpses of happier days: young Sarah playing on the bed with her brother in the Marais apartment; Sarah and another girl ripping the Star of David from their clothing, frolicking in a field of wheat, and bathing in a muddy river after their escape from a detainee camp; the two young girls sleeping in a farmer's barn with his guard dog.
The true star (or villain) of the film is the Velodrome d'Hiver, an indoor bicyle track and sports stadium which was located in Paris near the Eiffel Tower. Built for the World's Fair in 1900, the small track was enlarged and moved several blocks farther away from the Tower to house events for the 1924 Summer Olympics. Damaged by fire in 1959 and demolished, the glass-topped structure was reconstructed for the movie by its crew. A bonus feature of the DVD shows the amazing reconstruction.
Of the 28,000 Jews deported from Paris and Northern France by French police at the request of German occupiers, 13,152 men, women and children were placed in the Vel d'Hiv in July of 1942 for eight days. No toilet access and little food or water was available...and the comparison to the New Orleans Superdome catastrophe is drawn early in the film. (The film's modern-day action is updated to 2009 to allow this comparison.)
This DVD is the film with English subtitles that had a limited USA release in July of 2011 to be touted as an Oscar 2012 contender. I had hesistated to rent a DVD with subtitles...but about a third of the film (the modern-day events) is in English...and the transition is smooth and not disruptive. From other Amazon reviews, it appears that the film closely follows the novel. Tatiana de Rosnay collaborated with Director Paquel-Brenner who wrote the screenplay.
SARAH'S KEY is one of the best films I saw in 2011.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2011
I saw this film last month during the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and while I went to some really fantastic films, this one continues to resonate with me above them all.
In short, Sarah Starzynski and her parents are victims of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris in 1942; when the police arrive at the Starzynski's apartment, Sarah still thinks they are only after men and boys, so she locks her little brother Michel in the closet in their bedroom with a little food and water. But things don't quite work out as she hoped; she keeps the key through their hideous time at the Velodrome and manages to hang on to it after the Jews are transported to camps outside of Paris. Her singular goal is to escape and go back to the apartment to make sure Michel escaped the closet.
At the same time we are presented with the contemporary storyline of Julia Dormond, an American journalist living in Paris and married to a Frenchman. She decides to do a story on the Vel d'Hiv roundup, a heinous event that France for decades refused to mention or apologize for. (Just FYI, though the story is fiction, the roundup did happen) In her quest to find out the fate of the victims, she is led not only to little Sarah Starzynski's photo but inevitably to her husband's own family and the apartment in which they now live.
It's really hard for me to say more without doling out spoilers, but this film is, in my opinion, almost perfectly made. The actress who plays Sarah, Melusine Mayance, is fabulous; she tackles the complete range of emotions required of her with brilliance. As Julia, Kristin Scott Thomas is a wonderful fit for a character who has to be both tough and conflicted (and speak perfect French and English). The cinematography in the scenes from 1942 is breathtaking at times; I think the director did an amazing job pacing and crafting scenes to have the utmost emotional impact.
In a perfect world, this movie would be nominated for an Oscar and young Melusine as well. It is a French film and probably about two-thirds in French - so perhaps a nomination in the foreign film category? Alas, I don't see this happening (the Oscars is too Hollywood-political) and it will be a real shame. So I guess the only alternative is getting the word out to as many people as possible to have their life changed for a while by Sarah's Key.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Sarah's Key"Sarah's Key" is without a doubt one of the most remarkable films I have ever seen. It is based upon the international bestseller, written by Tatiana de Rosnay. You will not be able to see this film without being "unscathed." Kristin Scott Thomas (Julia Jarmond) is an American born and raised journalist who has been living and working in Paris for more than two decades. She is married to a French magazine publisher and they have inherited an apartment in the Marais section of Paris from her husband's family. They are the parents of a teenage daughter and decide to renovate the apartment so that the three of them can live there in modernity and comfort. The apartment had belonged to her grandmother-in-law `s family since 1942. The elderly woman is in a nursing home and her son has his own home.
While the renovations are going on, Julia developing an article about the complicity of the Vichy French government in carrying out the Nazi's "final solution" of murdering all of Frances Jews. The younger members of the magazine's editorial staff are unaware of this horrendous chapter in French history. The staffers say that it should be easy for Julia to find out what happened to the previous occupants of the apartment because the Nazi's kept meticulous records of all of their atrocities. She reminds them that it was the French, not the Germans, who conducted the arrests and deportations to the killing camps.
If Amazon's ratings had more than five stars, "Sarah's Key" would rate them all. The cast, acting, footage, characters and emotions are without comparison.
For me to write more about this film would be a spoiler for those who haven't read the book. Suffice it to quote from the film, "when a story is told, it is not forgotten."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2011
Not far into Gilles Paquet-Brenner's "Sarah's Key," Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott-Thomas) shows her journalist colleagues a wall filled with pictures of French-Jewish children who were victims of the Holocaust. She tells them she wants to find the names and stories of those children, to show the world they were not just statistics. Soon enough, Julia uncovers the story of one child, Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance), whose tragic life turns out to have uncomfortably close ties to Julia's own.
Spanning two continents and more than 60 years of history, "Sarah's Key" is a moving story of the Holocaust and the repercussions it has for those who live today. By telling us the story of one abused girl, who is forced in the end to carry a burden of guilt beyond anyone's imagining, "Sarah's Key" demands that we face ourselves. Faced with innocent neighbors being hauled off to certain death, Julia asks, what would we have done? Would we have risked our own lives to protect them, or would we--like millions of Frenchmen--have stayed silent, or even taken an active role in the slaughter?
"Sarah's Key" is as graceful and lyrical as any film about the Holocaust possibly can be. The acting is first-rate throughout, with a particularly moving, assured performance by young Mayance. Be sure to watch the "Making-Of" documentary in the Bonus section, which contains some sobering parts: the testimony of several extras who are actual Holocaust survivors, and of the actor who plays Sarah's father, who speaks of the tortures suffered by him and his family as ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.