Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Elle S’Appelait Sarah
France, 2010. Hugo Productions, Studio 37, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, TPS Star, France Télévision, Région Ile-de-France, A Plus Image. Screenplay by Serge Joncour,Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. Cinematography by Pascal Ridao. Produced by Stephane Marsil. Music by Max Richter. Production Design by Francoise Dupertuis. Costume Design by Eric Perron. Film Editing by Herve Schneid.
In 2009 Paris, Kristin Scott Thomas checks out her husband’s family’s apartment with the plans of remodeling it and moving in with him and their teenage daughter. The apartment has been in the family since 1942, which the film flashes back to and reveals that the ownership was acquired after its original Jewish tenants were evicted by Vichy authorities, sent to the notorious Velodrome D’Hiver with thousands of others before being sent off to Nazi-controlled concentration camps. Sarah is the daughter of the family that lives there in the 1942 scenes, a little girl who senses the danger that her family is in when the authorities show up and locks her brother in a secret closet in order to save him. The film moves between two stories as Sarah attempts to return home to let her brother out of his hiding place, while modern-day reporter Scott Thomas works on a piece about the evacuation of Jewish residents of the neighbourhood for her magazine that ends up having connections to her own family and dredges up a very dark period of France’s past. It’s a beautifully shot, magnificently scored epic drama of respectable proportions, narratively complex and wholly engrossing. It also benefits greatly from a world-class performance by Scott Thomas as a woman who longs to keep her family together but can’t stand how little the situation challenges her husband’s conscience compared to her own. Young Mélusine Mayance is outstanding as the young heroine of the 1942 section.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2010