(out of 5)
Ralph Fiennes is recently divorced and having trouble relating to his daughter; when he finally reflects on the reasons for his emotional disconnect, he flashes back to when he was fifteen (and played by David Kross), growing up in 1950s Germany, and the love affair he had one summer with an older tram collector (Kate Winslet). The two of them make love constantly, spending their time at her apartment with the only breaks taken being her requests that he read to her the books he is studying in school. At the end of the summer she disappears, and he doesn’t see her for years until it is under the most devastating circumstances: he attends war crime trials with his law class and sees her on the stand, defending herself for the time she spent as an S.S. guard at Auschwitz during the war. From there spins a harrowing tale of secrets, tragedies and the fluid values of guilt and redemption as our hero undergoes an experience that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Stephen Daldry once again teams up with David Hare, who adapted The Hours with him, for an intelligent, classy and heartbreaking drama that will affect you as deeply for its tragic elements (morals decided by circumstance) as well as its positive ones (the saving power of art). The performances are as strong as the writing and direction, with most of the praise going to the unforgettable Winslet; she eschews Hollywood glamour without the slightest regret and manages to light an incredibly erotic charge on the screen. At this point praising her work is far too de rigeur to bother with detail, she has been proving herself a knockout talent for fourteen years, but it’s worth stating that Winslet plays this character down to the bone; the elements of this film that will remain with you after it’s over will come in no unsubstantial part from her work. Also features Lena Olin making an incredible impression with a small cameo.
The Weinstein Company, Mirage Enterprises, Studio Babelsberg, Filmforderungsanstalt, Deutscher Filmforderfonds, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Mitteldeutsche Medienforderung, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Music by Nico Muhly
Production Design by Brigitte Broch
Film Editing by Claire Simpson