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Sarah's Key


Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Aidan Quinn, Niels Arestup, Michel Duchaussoy, Natasha Mashkevich, Sarah Ber, James Gerard, Karina Hin, Kate Moran, Mark Fairchild, Jonathan Kerr, Frédéric Pierrot

Director: Gilles Paget-Brenner

Grim without being too graphic, this moving and sometimes exciting film focuses on the plight of French Jews in 1942, rounded up and sent to concentration camps in Germany and Poland by their own people.

About to join the tide of victims with her mother and father, nine-year-old Sophie (Mayance) hides her younger brother in a concealed closet in their bedroom. Soon separated from her doomed parents. Sarah and another girl (Ber) escape from their holding camp with the help of a sympathetic guard (Kerr).

Though her companion later dies, Sarah is taken under the wing of a middle-aged couple and embarks on a dangerous journey back to Paris in the hope of finding her brother.

Interspersed with Sarah's story is a rather less interesting modern-day account of a journalist (Scott Thomas), pregnant in early middle age but drifting apart from her workaholic husband (Pierrot) and immersed in the tragedy of the wartime Jews for a big magazine piece.

She becomes obsessed with finding out what became of the girl.

There isn't exactly a happy ending to this absorbing yarn, but it is one that, although somewhat manipulative (involving Quinn as Sarah's son), won't leave a dry eye in the house. Scott Thomas is excellent as always, but little Mayance is naturally the face you'll remember.

David Quinlan

France/USA 2010. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by Eclair.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Aug 2011