23 March 2015 | Xarabe
Underwhelming if you have read the book
I had tracked the progress of this film from its initial stages after the release of the book to the ridiculous speculative casting; Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson, two actresses known for being voluptuous playing an emaciated young woman from about preadolescence to young adulthood? Yeah, right! No wonder the film took ages to get going. Unfortunately, it was also delayed because the initial director (Bernd Eichinger) passed away. Hoffman later took over the realms with Eichinger still listed as writer. This type of story was not suitable for maudlin Hollywood Oscar bait treatment and fortunately it didn't go there. It's probably a good thing it was an independent film with obscure indie actors which would help detract the potential glamorization of such a sad sad story.
If you have read the book this film is based on, I would be surprised if you found the film equally insightful. It isn't. The film in spite of its natural limitations of time does not do enough to absorb Natascha's harrowing story. You're pretty much getting a clear-cut version of her ordeal but that's not surprising with most adaptations of real life stories, especially ones that have an important chronology as hers did. This monster robbed her of her youth, and you can't really translate that when you have a grown woman of 30 playing the young teenage version of her.
Having said that, the acting was okay - nothing special. Hughes, to me at age 29-30 does look convincing as a younger person, not sure enough to pass for a young teenager but you will just have to suspend any disbelief. The set and locations I think are relatively well done. There are some scenes that were as I imagined them to be reading the book. The story does stretch the truth more than what Natascha herself was willing to reveal in her book but has implied outside of the book later on. The relationship between kidnapper and captive is very complex - probably not understandable to most people, thankfully. This movie does a predictably mediocre, yet mildly engaging way of portraying this type of relationship.
To be honest, if I just watched the film without actual knowledge of the real-life events that occurred, I would have given it a lower score, but because of my personal interest in Natascha's story, I can't help but say I was interested in the film - to see a visual albeit fictitious representation of what "happened".