Sarah's Key (2010)

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Aidan Quinn, Frédéric Pierrot

Directed by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Mélusine Mayance as Sarah

On 16 and 17 July 1942, over 13,000 Parisian Jews were arrested and penned into the Vélodrome d'Hiver, before being transported to Auschwitz. Sarah's Key begins with gendarmes pounding on the door of the Jewish Starzynski family. As they search the house, resourceful daughter Sarah (Mélusine Mayance) hides her younger brother Michel in a cupboard and locks the door. This act will blight her life forever, echoing through the decades to touch the lives of the generations after her – which is where journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) comes in.

An American married to a Frenchman and living in Paris, Julia is writing a feature on the Vel d'Hiv round up for a magazine. But work and home life collide in an eerie fashion when she discovers that the apartment in which her husband's family have lived since the war was in fact once the residence of the Starzynskis. Consumed with a curiosity tinged with guilt and wrestling with her own emotional problems, she becomes determined to discover the fate of the Starzynski children, tracing their story to the present day.

Kirstin Scott Thomas as Julia

Sarah's Key could well have become a bit of a historical handky-wringing weepie, masking horrific tragedy with mawkish sentiment, but fortunately the outstanding performance from young Mélusine Mayance, matched by a beautifully restrained turn from Kristin Scott Thomas as the empathetic Julia, raises it above such nonsense. Sure, it's an emotional film (I felt myself welling up more than once) and it'll leave you feeling pretty sad, but a good kind of sad, the kind of sad that makes you appreciate the good things in your life, and determine to hold onto them all the more tightly.

Powerful, moving and absorbing, Sarah's Key deals sensitively and in no way sensationally with a horrible stain on Europe's history, highlighting the way in which evil acts continue to infect the lives of future generations, but also how, through courage and love, good things can still emerge.

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