Saturday, February 12, 2011

Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key)

Expectations are not good, I’m always talking about expectations in my reviews but I believe I fell into the expectations trap with this movie. See, had big expectations which film didn’t fulfill when I watch it. So, did a smart thing, let time go by before writing about this film. Why? Because film and story are very good and didn’t want to tarnish the review with my not-deserved first impressions and misconceptions.

This Gilles Paquet-Brenner film is a very intense emotional ride into the lives of two families, one living in the present and another living in 1942. Story tells about very crucial moments in each family lives, both are crucial but issues are not the same even when story resolution merges both stories into a very welcomed positive end. Basically tells about Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in France after 20 years who because her work becomes close-involved with the not much-told very appalling Vel d’Hiv dark episode of France’s WWII History. At the same time Julia’s is remodeling their in-laws owned Paris apartment and thanks to her job assignment she discovers that in-laws first moved to apartment in 1942 which detonates a personal more profound research into the truth about the apartment ownership and the appalling/compelling story of little Sarah and her Jewish family.

Story truly is a very emotional ride into a very dark incident that in my opinion makes hard to relate to what Julia’s personal story is telling, which to me unbalances the present with the past; but after reading about movie, found that story is based on Tatiana De Rosnay bestselling novel but also is director’s homage to his grandfather who disappeared in the infamous incident and he incorporated some of his grandmother’s stories into what he calls “very well-documented fiction that accurately portraits incidents” referring to De Rosany’s novel. This finding allowed me to understand more clearly why story went not-proportionally towards the past as present-story definitively eases (a lot) viewing the past and absolutely changes what could have been a terrifying voyage into a dark incident into a more watchable movie, but in the end basically is a vehicle to tell the main story set in the past.

With the above told let’s move to film as a film. Outstanding performance by Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia, a role that already has been honored with awards and hopefully will continue to be honored at upcoming Cesar’s which she truly deserves them as she’s such a great actress that amazingly absolutely transforms into her characters. I believe this is another film where she “stole” the movie as it’s her film.

Director Paquet-Brenner shows very interesting storytelling abilities as makes a film with very high production values, especially editing and cinematography, while managing to convey the intensity of the story in a more easy-to-watch way. Very good and highly appreciated.

Yes, film has a terrifying story but is told so well that film becomes a very good/successful film that travels many film genres (drama, mystery, war, thriller, etc) which will slowly built viewers attention, even when pace is not slow, until grabs it and intensely holds it up to the very end.

Strongly recommend film to those that enjoy European films but maybe because some of the film scenes involves American actors, America story setting and English, at the end this film is a good example of films that extremely well mix American and European cinema, which obviously expands possible audiences if only film could be made available beyond the usual circuit for French or European movies. If film comes near you, don’t miss the opportunity and go watch it -or rent the DVD.


Watch trailer @MOC

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