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Reader, The


Stars: Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara

Director: Stephen Daldry

There are echoes of Atonement in this impressive film about post-war German guilt, the Holocaust and a rather unusual love affair.

The story begins in 1958 when Michael, a 15-year-old student, confidently played by Kross, is taken ill on his way home (turns out he has scarlet fever) and is helped by Hanna (Winslet), a tram conductress in her mid thirties.

Three months later, well again, he returns to thank her, but. finding himself attracted to her, runs off. A third visit results in a sort of mutiual seduction, and the pair begin a passionate affair punctuated by her requests that he read to her. They also take an idyllic two-day cycling holiday together.

At the end of the summer, Hanna breaks off the affair and disappears. But Michael sees her again six years later - as a defendant in a war crimes trial. It turns out that, as Michael realises - but rather mystifyingly fails to do anything about - she has another secret, one that could cost her dearly. Years after, Michael (now played by Fiennes) makes an unusual and moving attempt at atonement.

While some of the film's early developments do seem rather unlikely, and its latter half does go on a bit, it paints a fascinating picture of the Germans' conflicting feelings towards what happened in the war. As the woman who cannot grasp what she did wrong, Winslet is even more imposing than in Revolutionary Road and won the 2009 Best Actress Oscar.

But what's all this nonsense about putting her forward for some awards as best 'supporting' actress? Just who is she supporting here?

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Technicolor.
124 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Dec 2008