Sarah's Key (2010)

Original Title

Elle s'appelait Sarah





Kristin Scott Thomas, Natasha Mashkevich, Arben Bajraktaraj, Mélusine Mayance, Charlotte Poutrel, Niels Arestrup, Dominique Front, Frédéric Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Gisèle Casadesus, Aidan Quinn, George Birt


Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist married to a Frenchman (Frédéric Pierrot), is commissioned to write an article about the notorious Vel' d'Hiv round up, which took place in Paris, in 1942. She stumbles upon a family secret which will link her forever to the destiny of a young Jewish girl, Sarah (Mélusine Mayance, young - Charlotte Poutrel, adult).


Sophie's ChoiceSchindler's ListLife Is BeautifulThe PianistThe Boy with the Striped Pajamas have two things in common: they all are films about the Holocaust; they all show the Germans brutality. This film shows instead the French participation in this horror, and it does in a discreet way.

Based on Tatiana de Rosnay's novel with the same name, Sarah's Key is an extraordinarily moving, thoughtful, powerful film about the past and the present.

As I said before, this film deals with a dark part of France's history that is not known to all, the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. I've been reading around, and lots of people have been complaining because the "event" isn't detailed. To those people, I'd like to remember that, firstly this is not an historical film; secondly it is plenty of novels, essays, and documentaries about this they can learn from.

Having said that, what the film is trying to show is that everyone was guilty back then, from the police, to the people who took the apartments remained empty after the roundups. On the other hand, it also shows that everyone had the opportunity to redeem themselves, as the French policeman did by letting the two little girls escape from the concentration camp.

The story is unique, and like Sophie's Choice, this film shows that it's impossible for the "survivors" to have a normal life after what happened -- this brings to my mind the Italian writer Primo Levi, who was devastated by the Holocaust.

However, this film has its flaws. The story is interesting, but as the movie goes on I had the feeling it was focused on Julia, the journalist, and not Sarah. Also, the ending could have been a lot better. It plays with the emotions of Sarah' son, but we don't even get to know him that well, so it's not that effective.

Kristin Scott Thomas is great as the American journalist, but Mélusine Mayance steals the scene as young Sarah.


Julia Jarmond: When stories are not told, they become something else... forgotten.

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