Sarah's Key Movie Poster Image

Sarah's Key



Powerful drama includes horrifying Holocaust violence.
  • Review Date: July 22, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Two adults sip champagne in a restaurant. No drunkenness.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 22, 2011
DVD release date:November 22, 2011
Cast:Aidan Quinn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance
Director:Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic material including disturbing situations involving the Holocaust

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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 she finds his body it is rotten and decaying. I cried!
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 stories intertwined - one from WWII and one about a journalist in 2009. Not a party-mood movie, but a very good movie, a very beautiful thought-provoking movie. The main character's actress was great, but I think the little girl who played Sarah did an exceptional job. Be prepared to hit pause several times to answer your kids' questions or to just talk about what is happening in the story - great opportunity for learning and meaningful discussion (including topics usually associated with the holocaust, also abortion and depression). Even if you think you know your WWII history, you may be really surprised at what you will learn in this movie. My 12 y-o son is not easily entertained, and usually doesn't care to watch "grown-up" movies unless they are high action or full of aliens, etc. Sarah's Key kept his interest the whole time, and he couldn't even keep up with all the subtitles when they were fast because he has dyslexia. Sometimes he'd ask me about whatever he missed and I'd pause it to explain, and sometimes I'd pause it and ask him if he understood what was going on and we talked about some of the things that rarely get discussed between teens and parents. He made it clear he did not "like" it because it was sad, but after it was over we talked about the bright spots, however small and few, we can find even in that story and in terrible tragedies such as the holocaust. Sometimes you have to see the big ugly picture to be able to appreciate the "small acts of kindness" given by some who were put in a tough position, and the amazing courage and love that some people showed during WWII. The scene with a teen girl and a tween girl swimming naked that is mentioned in the review from this site is COMPLETELY INNOCENT and there is nothing provocative about it at all. The girls were desperate for a cool bath and they had on their panties and it didn't show the older one close up, and the younger one had "no chest" and the water was muddy anyhow, so there was really nothing to see. Caution: If you have a child who is very easily scared, you should fast-forward through the part *SPOILER ALERT* where she finally gets to use her key. The inside of the closet is never shown, but the look on her face and her screams are very dramatic. Or you could have your kid go get you something to drink or take a bathroom break, then mute the TV and let it get past the point of her screaming - it's not long. Compared to what most kids see on TV and movies it's nothing, but I wouldn't have wanted my kids to see it when they were around 10 and under.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Parent Written byufosjt February 23, 2012

Should be an R rated film.

This holocaust movie is very sad and scary. Even though educational for younger ones, it's scary and scarce throughout. Many deaths including a 5 year old boy. Older teens would be fine for this flick.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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