Netflix52: Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key (PG-13)Sarah's Key

Genre : Drama, Foreign
Tagline : Uncover the mystery.
Starring : Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Frederic Pierrot
Running Time : 111 minutes
Director : Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Producer : Stéphane MarsilGaetan Rousseau

In modern-day Paris, a journalist finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942.

Although this movie has been a queue for a while and it is about WW  II and the Holocaust (two of my favorite subjects to learn about), I had been putting off seeing it.  My mother told me about the book and if she hadn’t forced me to sit down and watch it I might have waited a lot longer.  I am very glad I didn’t.  While hard to stomach, as most stories of the Holocaust are, this was a moving story that was perfectly done.

Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance) is a young girl living in Paris in July of 1942 when the Nazi’s have the French police round up all the Jews to be sent to concentration camps, commonly known as the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.  As she and her younger brother, Michel (Paul Mercier) play in the bedroom police bang on the door and order her mother (Natasha Mashkevich) to pack herself and the children to be taken away.  In a moment of panic and being much too young to understand what is happening, Sarah locks her little brother Michel in the closet and takes the key.  She orders Michel to stay quiet and not to leave until she comes back for him.  She tells the police that he has gone to the country so only she and her mother leave the house where they are soon joined by her father (Arben Bajraktaraj).

Sarah’s family is locked in the Vélodrome d’Hiver with many of the other Paris Jews waiting to be shipped to camps.  After failing to give the key to a woman who manages to escape building and the police, both parents vocally blame Sarah for Michel’s fate.  They all wait in horrid conditions and complete agony to be shipped to the Drancy Camp.  Once they are there the women are separated from Sarah’s father and later her mother is taken away also.  Sarah makes a friend and explains that she has to get back to let Michele out of the closet.  She and her friend plan their escape and the movie takes off from there.

While this plot line is developing we also meet Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) an American reporter who has moved back to Paris with her French husband and their daughter.  Julia takes a job writing with a magazine where she is asked to revisit the round-up of 1942 because of its 70 year anniversary and do a followup piece to one she published years before.  The apartment they move into is the apartment Bertrand’s family has owned since 1942 and Julia soon learns of the family who was taken front he apartment and can not rest until she knows the whole story.  We follow both plot lines throughout the movie and learn all of Sarah’s story from Julia’s research.

When my mother told me about the book she wouldn’t give me any details.  She only said that there was a girl who locked her brother in a closet during the roundup and the book was about the woman researching what happened to the boy in modern times.  She wouldn’t give me any information about the fate of the boy or Sarah and frankly it pissed me off.  I was afraid to hear whether this little boy lives but I am glad she didn’t tell me anything.  The way the story unfolds is very moving and it would have been ruined by knowing too much.  So, I won’t say much about the story.  I will say that I think this is a stunning movie with great acting and great cinematography.  It is a French film so most of the movie is in French with subtitles.  There is a good amount of English spoken by Julia so you will not have to be reading the whole movie.

Melusine Mayance does an amazing job of showing the innocence and emotion that this story calls for.  Kristin Scott Thomas transitions from mother and wife to investigator very well.  You can feel her passion for knowing the history of this place she plans to call home and the fate of the family forced out and sent to their deaths.  This is an original story about the struggles of the Jewish population during the war and tells the story of a lesser known part of France’s involvement with the Nazi’s.  The support cast lives up to its name and helps the plot move along seamlessly.  The landscape and cinematography teeter between breathtaking and melancholy.  While emotional and often hard to watch, the story is one that is unique and well worth the time.  If you have any interest in history (although this story is fiction it is completely believable and there are probably many true stories like this), the Holocaust, WW II, or just a good story of perseverance and grace then this is well worth your time.

Distributed: Anchor Bay EntertainmentThe Weinstein Company
Released :
 September 16, 2010
Budget : EU 10,000,000
Box Office : 
73% Critic, 83% Audience

Favorite Scene : The scene where the French doctor comes to check on the sick girl.  The fear and defiance of the woman followed by the relief when the Nazi officer leaves the house is tangible.  The idea of putting your life in danger like that is something that I hope I would be able to do.  But you never know what you will do when faced with a situation like that.
Favorite Quote : “When a story is told, it is not forgotten. It becomes something else, a memory of who we were; the hope of what we can become. ”
Awards : Audience Award-Tokyo International Film Festival, Best Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner-Tokyo International Film Festival

Fun Facts :

  1. Was the most successful French movie in the Netherlands, due to the popularity of the book on which the film is based, until The Intouchables took the record.
  2. Elle s’appelait Sarah is the original title which translates to Her Name Was Sarah.
  3. The film was first screened at the Toronto Film Festival before being released in France on October 13, 2010.  It wasn’t released in the US until July 22, 2011.
  4. The movie is based on Tatiana de Rosnay’s book of the same name published in 2006 in France and in the US a year later.
  5. Although British, Kristin Scott-Thomas delivers her English dialogue in an American accent, but for most of the film she speaks fluent French as she is Anglo-French. She has done many Anglo-French movies in French and received a César Award nomination for this performance.
  6. The movie shows the activities that occurred in 3 different years: July 1942, May 2002, and 2004.
  7. In the movie Sarah was sent to the Drancy internment camp.
  8. Sarah is supposed to be 10 years old in the book and the movie.

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