Directed by Stephen Daldry
A young man finds out that his first love played a role at Auschwitz.
The Reader is a “very tough story” to tell, said Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter. The film, based on Bernhard Schlink’s controversial German novel, uses an affair between a teenage boy and an older woman to reflect the “deeply psychological and morally complex” conflicts between Germany’s war and postwar generations. While German postwar guilt isn’t the most obvious theme for the holiday season, the “lively, nonlinear structure imposed by screenwriter David Hare and tight, focused direction from Stephen Daldry” make this period piece intriguing Oscar bait. The Reader “asks tough questions and, to its credit, provides no easy answers,” said David Ansen in Newsweek. But its pursuit of grand themes too often makes it seem “stilted and abstract.” This overly cerebral film has no “gut impact,” said Todd McCarthy in Variety. Although “sensitively realized and dramatically absorbing,” it never gets to its central character’s core. Kate Winslet gives a haunting performance as a former concentration-camp guard who goes on trial for war crimes. But her life is “invariably assessed from the outside.”