Sarah's Key (2011)
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Mélusine Mayance
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
The film jumps back and forth in time between 1942 and 2009, following two story arcs, only one of which really carries any weight which ultimately is the main reason Sarah's Key lacks the heart that is expected when dealing with such a weighty topic. The 2009 story involves the aforementioned Julia on a mission to discover all she can about the Vel' d'Hiv movement only to uncover that the apartment she and her family are renovating was the home to a Jewish family in 1942 who were taken away in the round-up. The story then jumps back to 1942 where we find the true soul of the movie as it follows ten year-old Sarah (Mélusine Mayance) who lived in the apartment and whose family was taken in the Vel' d'Hiv. However, ingenious Sarah lies to the French police when they ask about the whereabouts of her younger brother and she hides him in a locked closet telling him not to come out until she returns to get him. As Sarah gets taken to various locations throughout France, she refuses to give up hope on returning to save her brother and will do whatever necessary to get home.
Obviously, Sarah's story is where the film really shines and young Mélusine Mayance more than holds her own in carrying her scenes. Unfortunately, despite Kristin Scott Thomas's ability to continue to be a strong presence in nearly every film I've seen her in (and her strength in this film as a British actress taking on the role of an American who speaks fluent French), Julia's half of the film isn't nearly as riveting as the half focusing on Sarah. They try and give Julia a problem -- she's pregnant "late in life" and it causes some issues with her marriage -- but when you put that up against "the Holocaust," it's not exactly an even match-up.
While it isn't perfect, Sarah's Key is still a tale worth telling with some very good acting and a story that, despite only half working, keeps one's interest. The Vel' d'Hiv is something I knew nothing about and it's a shocking and horrifying peace of our world's history.
The RyMickey Rating: B-