Posted August 21, 2011 by William Dunmyer in Top-Rated

Sarah’s Key

If you’re like me, you’ve grown weary of Holocaust movies in the last few years. When filmmakers run out of ideas nowadays, they make yet another Holocaust movie. They know they can provide an orgy of grief for the viewer without even putting in much effort. Cheap, easy torture-porn.


We’ve become so familiar with these predictable movies that I bet most of us could direct one in our sleep — and cry through one in our sleep. I especially resent the use of children in assembly-line Holocaust films. That is emotional manipulation of the most ghoulish kind.


Given the importance of this subject matter, I think its cheapening as a movie theme is disturbing. Thus I almost walked out of “Sarah’s Key” after 15 minutes. I had actually not known the film was about the Holocaust and certainly didn’t know it focused on children. But I’m very happy that I didn’t leave because “Sarah’s Key” is no assembly-line movie. It’s about more than the Holocaust, too. It’s really about us today. All of us, but particularly the French, as they come out of denial about the number of French citizens who actively aided the German program of Jewish extermination.




Kristin Scott Thomas, continuing her remarkable transformation into a French-speaking actress, plays an American journalist living in Paris with her French husband. They are moving into the apartment where he and his parents grew up. While tracing the history of the apartment, she stumbles on some disturbing information. When the family moved into the apartment in 1942, it was vacant. But who were the previous tenants, and what happened to them?


The story is told on two tracks with cross-cutting between them. On one track is the present-day woman trying to uncover a lost history. On the other is the Jewish family who got evicted from the apartment in 1942. Gradually, more and more information about the family’s plight is revealed, with special focus on Sarah, one of two children in the family. I won’t reveal the details about the eponymous key, but I can say that it may break your heart like nothing ever has. – unfinished


William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.