A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
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?
- In theaters: July 22, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 22, 2011
- Cast: Aidan Quinn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance
- Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material including disturbing situations involving the Holocaust
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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