Kristin Scott Thomas
Though the story revolves around true events, the filmmakers put it in the context of two very personal stories. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Julia, a modern day reporter, recently relocated to France and starting work on a story about Vel’ d’Hiv—a time when French police, in Nazi occupied Paris, rounded up their own people in inhumane conditions before they were shipped off to concentration camps. As Julia becomes more and more obsessed with finding the truth, we also see her research come to life in the story of Sarah, a little girl whose family was uprooted during the struggle. Sarah has an unfortunate secret (though it’s revealed early on in the movie, I won’t spoil it here) that follows her along her journey, even worse than the unspeakable atrocities being committed around her. As the tales of both women evolve, they also begin to intersect in unexpected ways.
The performances here are great and carry the story along strongly, especially the young actress who plays Sarah. Though both intertwining plots are interesting and kept my attention the whole time, I have to admit that SARAH’S KEY doesn’t really offer anything beyond similar World War II movies. (THE READER is a recent example that comes to mind.) It’s still a gut wrenching story (hard to believe this all happened less than a century ago), but one we’ve seen done before. Though it seems like the film would be a mystery (what’s the key to?), it’s surprisingly simple and straightforward. Perhaps holding back a bit more on Sarah’s story and revealing it little by little would’ve worked better given the back-and-forth format.
Still, if you enjoy (or can appreciate) stories from that period of time SARAH’S KEY is worth checking out for the unfortunate true story it represents.
Extra Tidbit: Kristin Scott Thomas is British, but plays an American who is fluent in French.