July 22, 2011
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay was a book that I devoured and the subject matter would not let me go. It was so passionate, emotional, intense, and heart-rending. When I saw that the movie was coming out in theatre I had a mixed reaction to seeing it – would it be one of those that is faithful to the book or something that spins its own yarn? And more importantly, would I like it? I didn’t see this in the theatre – because the only way I wanted to see it was at a little local indie theatre, but I didn’t make it there before they switched films – however I finally got around to requesting it from Netflix.
This movie, like the book, jumps back and forth between the historical events of the 1940’s and the present day. In my opinion the historical sections were the much more interesting and well done; this is where the action of the story takes place, the Vel’ d’Hiv round up. You could sincerely feel the fear and emotion of what was going on then. These scenes were beautiful to look at – in a sort of macabre way. The modern day scenes featuring Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia Jarmond were more reflective and about solving the mystery.
I thought that the “historical” characters were well acted while I found the modern characters to be more one-dimensional with less than believable emotions. I found that I did not really care about what happened to Julia because they did not fully develop her story as much as in the book. Here she was primarily a vehicle to find out the story of Sarah Starzynski, and her own personal ordeals were only touched upon in the briefest of ways. For someone who has read the book, the narrative of the film didn’t quite pull at the heart strings – it hit all of the main elements, however it lost some of the pathos. In order to love this story you need to really be invested in both the modern and historical characters – this film half-heartedly does this with the historical, but didn’t put much effort on the modern. I would have liked a little bit more from the historical tale – to visually see a little more of the harsh reality Sarah faced. While a terrible ordeal, I think it would have created a deeper sense of the characters future decisions and created more of a connection to the character – as done in the book.
As is common for me, I preferred the book to the movie – however if you had not read the book, and did not have any intention to, it was a decent rendition. I do think that you get more out of the film by having read the book as you can fill in some of the gaps.
You can read my review of the book here.
Check out this trailer:
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