Reviews of Sarah's Key
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Some films are so sad and tragic, they are almost imbearbale to watch. Sarah’s key, despite stellar performances and a wonderful story, is one of them. Kristin Scott Thomas helms a journey into history, both the history of one day in France and the fate of young girl and her family. Usually, I am not a big fan of multi-storyline films but in this case, the mother-to-be and her search for the lost child of the past and the lost love in herself is a mesmerizing combination and makes both angles of the film truly shine.
The film refrains from melo-drama and pompous tragedy for people to masturbate over, but the horror and atrocities are so matter-of-fact and sterile, it makes them the harder to watch but way more intensive. Especially the performance by the young girl hit your right where it hurts.
A sad but important film that once again reminds us that all wars are about humans and people and not numbers and are definitely not part of our history but part of our present day lives as well.
Kristin Scott Thomas is a miracle as usual.
Don’t miss this tour-de-force.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Gilles Paquet-Brenner proves in this film that even as overdone a subject as the holocaust still has fertile dramatic depths to be plowed and affecting resolutions to be wrought. “Sarah’s Key” intercuts the story of a French Jewish family being sent to a Vichy concentration camp and the contemporary story of journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) who is inspired to write a feature about the missing young girl of the family and embarks on an investigative hunt to ascertain what fate befell her.
Paquet-Brenner is a very active young Parisian director, having completed 6 films within the last decade. He exhibits the ease of control of a wily veteran in this moving work that not only comments on everything you would expect a holocaust film to contemplate but also issues of familial bonds, identity, truth and the ties that unite them all.
At the conclusion of the film Julia introduces her toddler daughter to William Rainsferd (Aidan Quinn), the middle-aged son of the deceased woman she has been tracing and who has just learned his dramatic family history in no small part because of Julia’s once troublesome sleuthing. The woman who escaped from confinement and persecution as a child to eventually marry and have a family, and who also suffered from depression and ultimately commits suicide is the Sarah of the title. Julia reveals that she has named her daughter Sarah and it touches William deeply, offering him a chance to reconnect with the spirit of the mother who left him when he was too young to truly understand the choices she made. The two sit in a restaurant situated high above the New York City streets and watch young Sarah as she balances on a large windowsill with a view of the magnificent urban lights of Times Square below her.
This is the final image of the film and I couldn’t help but think of the powerful final image in a brilliant Israeli film I saw at last year’s Belgrade FEST called “Jaffa,” which ends with a young half-Israeli/half-Palestinian girl balancing on a walkway bordering the sea in between her estranged parents on either side. These final expressive images speak volumes about the narratives that contain them and in comparison they inflect each others power as they engage in aesthetic and thematic dialogue. “Jaffa” was the best film I saw at the 38th Belgrade International Film Festival. “Sarah’s Key” is so far the most impressive at the 39th.