Sarah's Key (2010)

PG-13   |    |  Drama, War

Sarah's Key (2010) Poster

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.




  • Mélusine Mayance in Sarah's Key (2010)
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key (2010)
  • Mélusine Mayance in Sarah's Key (2010)
  • Mélusine Mayance in Sarah's Key (2010)
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key (2010)
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key (2010)

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4 April 2012 | secondtake
| Starts with horrors and builds into inward, probing beauty
Sarah's Key (2010)

A two pronged film with a harrowing account of French anti-Semitism in World War II paralleling a contemporary account of a reporter discovering the details of one Jewish family destroyed by those events. Eventually the tales collide, and coincide, and another kind of meaning arises about accountability and acceptance.

At first this tale might strike you as both forced--the two narratives are very disjointed and separate, back and forth--and painfully familiar--another riveting, heart wrenching version of Jewish suffering and determination during the Holocaust. But stick with it, because it picks up complexity and nuance as it goes. Once you realize the roundup and mistreatment and eventual killing of the Jews is led in this case by French officials, you know this has a different kind of chill to it. And then you find that the contemporary story is literally connected to the 1940s story.

The leading actress in the 2010 thread, Kristin Scott Thomas, is one of those rare actresses who can command the screen with quiet brooding. She's convincing in a way that we identify with, and our sympathies are with her from the start. As she uncovers the facts of the past, and faces varying degrees of concern and indifference, she herself undergoes a transformation. This, by the end, is really what the story is about, the pertinence for our own times. The specific events around the title idea, the young girl's key, are horrifying to the point of being slightly sensationalist, but the rest of the movie is so studied and careful, you take it in stride.

In all I was surprised and eventually deeply moved by this movie. It's filmed with exquisite camera-work and is sharply edited. And most of all, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner gets the most from all the actors, from the children in the prison camp to the adults on all sides showing their human sides in restrained ways, without caricature.

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