The Reader In Review
Worth Every Award
I rarely leave a movie feeling stunned. I usually can process things long before the lights come back on. The Reader is one of those movies that stick with you no matter how hard you try to shake it off.
Adapted from Bernhard Schlink’s novel, Der Vorleser, it is a story with many levels. On the top level, we meet Michael (Ralph Fiennes), a middle-aged divorcee and father who needs to make peace with his past. On the second level, we become voyeurs, watching the taboo romantic/sexual affair unfold between a fifteen year old Michael (David Kross) and Hanna (Kate Winslet), aged thirty-six. On the final level, Hanna is on trial for taking part in the Holocaust and Michael, now in his twenties and a law student, can only observe.
Watching this movie reminded me of having a conversation with a stranger on a bus. Let me explain. You step on to an empty bus or think it is empty until you spot someone at the very end of the bus. Not meaning to, you lock eyes with them. They inch closer and internally you’re screaming at yourself for making eye contact. They sit beside you and make general conversation about the weather. You keep looking out the window, spotting landmarks that remind you that you still have a while to go. You look at the person and see that something is wrong. Politely, you ask them if they are okay. Feeling closer to you than you feel to them, they start to tell you about their life. You listen, hoping that it is brief. Gradually, they pull you in such much to the point that you’re wishing the driver would slow down. You look at the landmarks, hard. You have at least ten more minutes until you have to get off. Suddenly, the other passenger, your new friend, gets up. You never took into account that they might be leaving before you. They get off the bus and the bus pulls away. Their story is on a loop in your head. You weren’t ready to say goodbye.
When a movie gets so much award buzz, you start to doubt if it’s a good movie. Rarely do greatly hyped up things deliver. The Reader deserves every award. Kate Winslet is phenomenal. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a performance like that from anyone. She has your attention from the moment she first steps on to the screen. People may argue that Hanna is a villain. I believe Hanna to be of a simple mind and, while she knew what the outcome of her actions would be, did not carry out her tasks with malice, but because it was her job and she needed work. She broke my heart and had my sympathy. David Kross was a great match for Winslet. When an actor is so young and their co-star so experienced, it is easily possible for them to be overshadowed. Kross stood his ground with boyish charm, both character and actor growing as the movie progressed. Ralph Fiennes did well with what he had to work with. His scenes were few, his importance more as storyteller. This wasn’t his movie.
The Reader is a well-written (David Hare), well-directed (Stephen Daldry) film. Though over two hours long, the movie went by far too fast. The characters are real and fragile. The story is moving and lasting. As this was the last project (acting as producers) of the late Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient) and the late Sydney Pollack (The Way We Were, Michael Clayton), I was hesitant to see it. It could’ve been an absolute disaster and an unworthy tribute to two great men. Thankfully, its one of the best pictures to come out in years.
I urge you to go see The Reader. Bring some tissues. Please leave your kids at home as there are definite “adult situations.”
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