Sarah's Key

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Sarah's Key Movie Poster Image
Powerful drama includes horrifying Holocaust violence.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Young Sarah is clever and strong and tries her best to solve problems and overcome challenges in the midst of a scary, intense situation (even though she sometimes fails). As for Julia's story in the present day, it shows that no matter how painful, the truth does indeed set you free.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sarah could be viewed as a role model in some respects; she's brave and strong and quick thinking, and she's a problem-solver. But after a terrible failure, she withdraws and becomes angry, sullen, and depressed. Julia is also a mixed role model: She's curious and warm-hearted, but her search also borders on selfish obsession.


Most of the movie's violence is concentrated during the Holocaust sequence during the first third. The roundup of innocent French Jews is shown as a disgusting horror show; people commit suicide (blood shown) and pretend to be sick by "coughing up" blood. Characters get sick and die. In the camps, there's screaming, pushing, and shoving, with children getting hurt in the fracas. Guards are shown to have guns.


Two teen/pre-teen girls are seen floating naked in a pond (though it's mostly from far away, and no real details are visible). In the present day, a husband and wife are seen kissing; the wife is pregnant.


One use of "My God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Two adults sip champagne in a restaurant. No drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this often-intense drama based on the 2007 novel by Tatiana De Rosnay takes place in both 1942, as a brave 10-year-old girl tries to survive the Holocaust and rescue her younger brother, and 2009, as a journalist in France tries to find out what happened. The movie features some horrifying violence, mostly surrounding the Holocaust sequences that make up about a third of the film. Characters commit suicide, get sick, and die; children are pushed and hurt in the general chaos; and blood is shown. There's some minor sexuality, including a pregnant woman and an image of two teen/pre-teen girls swimming naked. Teens old enough to handle the Holocaust imagery will find some interesting and powerful history lessons here.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJared Galczynski April 16, 2015


Mélusine Mayance, my other favorite actress. LOVE her name.
Parent of a 12 and 14-year-old Written byLearn-Laugh-LOVE September 22, 2012

Beautiful movie that really makes you think

I really enjoyed it considering it's a holocaust movie, and I think it's definitely worth watching WITH tweens and teens. It's really two storie... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bytaramisu03 December 5, 2011


Though it was a okay movie, I felt that it was extremely upsetting. Not because of the Holocaust violence, but Sarah's brother died in the closet and when... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 2009, journalist Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas) is preparing to move into a Paris apartment belonging to her husband's family when she notices a troubling detail about the apartment's history: During the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of 1942, the Starzynski family lived there. The film proceeds to chronicle the story of 10-year-old Sarah (Mélusine Mayance), who locks her younger brother, Michel, in the closet and tells the French Nazi sympathizers that he isn't home. Later, though Sarah and her parents are held prisoner in appalling conditions, Sarah realizes that Michel isn't safe and decides to escape and rescue him. But present-day records show no trace of Sarah or her brother, so Julia becomes obsessed with discovering the secret of the apartment, bringing the truth to Sarah's family at last.

Is it any good?

Kristin Scott Thomas is quite good in this role, which she seems born to play. After directing a mediocre 2009 horror movie called Walled In, Gilles Paquet-Brenner takes on much more ambitious material with SARAH'S KEY. To his great credit, he uses powerful Holocaust imagery sparingly and only to illustrate a brief point, rather than to run the audience through a wringer. He focuses on the strengths and shortcomings of the two women characters, several generations apart, and captures an uncommonly powerful portrait of both.

Moreover, Paquet-Brenner manages a good balance between the two time periods, which isn't always easy (one usually dominates the other); the modern day sequences sometimes serve as a respite for the harsher 1942 scenes. Indeed, the rhythms of the mystery unfolding in 2009 are perhaps even more quietly compelling than the more primal, more powerful war sequences. Either way, Paquet-Brenner keeps up a steady pace and an effective emotional resonance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence of the Holocaust. What would make people behave that way? How is that period of history typically portrayed in the media?

  • What keeps drawing filmmakers and audiences to this subject material?

  • Does knowing the truth help or hurt the characters in 2009? Is something painful better hidden or known?

Movie details

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