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Sarah's Key: Milking the Shoah for Easy Emotion

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Sarahs Key
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
The Weinstein Company
Opens July 22

Exposing a little-known piece of Holocaust history—the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, in which French police arrested thousands of Jews in Paris in July 1942—Sarah’s Key dutifully follows the template of scores of movies about the Shoah: wringing from atrocity the most unseemly sentimentality. The film toggles between the past—as 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance) and her parents are taken from their Marais home and penned up in the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a cycling arena in the 15th Arrondissement, before being sent to a nearby internment camp—and the present, focusing on Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist in Paris who’s writing an article about the all-but-buried episode. In the course of her research, Julia discovers some uncomfortable truths about her French in-laws’ connection with the Starzynski family; wading through the mawkish muck, particularly during plot threads involving her “miraculous” middle-age pregnancy and tracking down Sarah’s adult son, the bilingual and normally unimpeachable Scott Thomas sounds as if she has learned a Yank accent via Rosetta Stone. Based on Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel and co-written by director Gilles Paquet-Brenner and Serge Joncour, Sarah’s Key is filled with the usual meaningless bromides, concluding with Scott Thomas’s voiceover declaration: “When a story is told, it is not forgotten.” This film vanishes from memory immediately.

 
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13 comments
GaryP2727
GaryP2727

Couldn't agree with the reviewer more. It is a travesty to use an event as terrible as this and turn it into a mawkish novel. Gilles Paquet-Brenner has a completely tin ear for almost every scene involving English-speaking actors, and even manages to make Aidan Quinn into a bad actor.

By the time it got to "I'm sorry", "No, I'm sorry" I was the one who was sorry.

It would have worked without the modern day schmaltz. And, as for those awkward scenes with the young magazine colleagues, words fail me.

Pity, because it started off promising. Melodrama wins. And this subject is too serious for trite melodrama. I'm sorry.

Mike Thorsen917
Mike Thorsen917

Ms. Anderson doesn't have a clue regarding her review of this movie; it is anything but "instantly forgettable". I have not stopped thinking about this movie since I rented the DVD. She represents that group of critics that think their insights are so much more superior than us mere mortals.

CuleCule68
CuleCule68

Particular answers to universal questions. The historical tragedy is used as a trigger for the eternal humanism and the well-developed characters as the sublime carrier of the viewer's empathy. Wonderfully poignant.

CP Irwin
CP Irwin

Cynical and cursory review of a poignant film that fully develops the characters.....I have thought of the movie often since seeing it.....wondering what it would be like to lose one's entire family and particularly a brother because of a well-meaning but terrible mistake. Kristen Scott-Thomas' performance was haunting but the young Sarah gave a powerful performance-Oscar worthy.....

A Moreno
A Moreno

Ms. Anderson's review is what is superficial and shallow, not the film. She doesn't seem to have really studied it, dismissing the modern-day story as mawkish when it is actually about a modern-day woman struggling to come to terms with a horror that is powerfully depicted in the film.

Nicolette04
Nicolette04

I find Ms. Anderson's critique to be completely off the mark. This story... a very powerful one... gives more insight...another piece to an endless puzzle. All people during occupation were profoundly changed/effected. It also makes us wonder what our own actions might be in the same situation. One realizes too, that even the smallest kindness could change one's life. I also wonder how Ms. Anderson could walk away from this story/film suggesting it was "forgettable". As Robert Bloom... (read below) writes... "Please send a reviewer with a heart to review the next film (unless it's Transformers or some other crap"!

Hap
Hap

Ms Anderson obviously does not "get it"....it's interesting that my parents who were Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz and I as a 2nd generation child was so moved by this film and the characters and character of the story....if this film is totally forgettable after seeing it then how come it has been haunting myself and others long after watching it - yes, there is some sentimentality that would be best spared from the core story but the power and emotions of guilt on so many levels by so many people is over powering and very effective - it makes us think and it holds people, government workers and countries totally accountable and responsible for their actions OR inactions as the case may be - great film - horrible review!

Tartenpio
Tartenpio

Melissa Anderson doesn't understand anything about the movie. This movie is a powerful reminder of who we have been, who we are, and who we can be. History is the soul of our culture, ignoring it leads us to fundamental mistakes that can haunt us as a society and as an individual. We Americans are suffering badly of absence of guilt as a group, this is bad news, because we are having trouble to discriminate between right and wrong. it is important to understand that as individuals we must challenge ourselves in our own belief and as a society to challenge our leadership. That is what the french have learned with the Vichy goverment that still haunts the french charater, that is what the german have learned with Nuremberg. Melissa Anderson doesn't understand the necessity to learn the lessons from history,

Robert Bloom
Robert Bloom

What a pathetic excuse for a review.The failure to grasp the universality of loss, pain, love, and connectedness is typical of contemporary americans. And here's your zombie reviewer sneering at this powerful film.To ignore the moving statement of this film regarding what French soldiers and cops did and what american soldiers and cops do every day, and what Israeli soldiers and cops do every day, and what Syrian soldiers and cops do every day (and on and on) unmasks a reviewer who has no soul and no sense of history. My guess is that she lives in some hip neighborhood and shows her friends and her fellow workers her breezy ignorance in some way or another every day of her life.Please send a reviewer with a heart to review the next film (unless it's Transformers or some other crap)Robert BloomBerkeley, CA.

Patrick M. Gouin
Patrick M. Gouin

What a powerful film. The ending will blow you away. Another film on the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup you say? Yes, but so much more. The meeting of the past with the present is rendered with great mastery. Maybe the best film I’ve seen this year. A must see!

Bobby Wise
Bobby Wise

I think it's a great film. There is no unseemly sentimentality because the film is not about the Holocaust. That's just the pretext for a great story about the ties that bind. The performances were fine and the direction was well-handled. A success I say.

David Enzel
David Enzel

I just saw the movie and loved it. It personalizes the experience in a way that makes it accessible. I found it very moving and the acting first rate. It is the story of a family and the way issues are transmitted from one generation to the next.

howie kaplan
howie kaplan

It's ok to debilitate this effort and does'nt matter one bit withall and any of Holocausts blighted by Stevie's epic which covers its benigns! . So when all is saidand done the movie gets a doggie lick despite these fine goys reach overs slim hopes of this ever taking place again especially taking place while the " new Germany " becomesa proven ally of Israel. Tarentino gathers the most dust from his sarcasm.

 

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