It’s been several weeks since I saw Sarah’s Key, but it’s the type of movie that sticks with you, as most Holocaust-era set films often do. But what sets this one apart is its spotlight on an event that I certainly don’t recall ever hearing about in school: a Nazi-authorized roundup of Jews in France in 1942. Not Germany (or Austria or Poland…), but France. Thousands of men, women and children were held for two days in cramped, unsanitary conditions at the Velodrome d’Hiver in Paris (think ‘Superdome’ during Hurricane Katrina) then carted off to concentration camps. That’s the context for the film’s story, which is based on a best-selling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Sarah’s Key is a foreign indie that actually features a few familiar faces. And you’ll barely notice when the dialogue shifts between English and French (with English subtitles). I’m a tough sell when it comes to “movies you have to read,” but this one managed to draw me in.

Kristen Scott Thomas (The English Patient) plays an American journalist named Julia who discovers that the Paris apartment she’s about to move into with her husband and child once belonged to a Jewish family who were among those rounded up in 1942. Julia becomes obsessed with tracking down what happened to that family – especially the children, 10-year-old Sarah and her little brother, Michel. The film cuts back and forth between present-day, and the years since 1942, when Sarah tried to save her brother from the roundup by locking him in a closet and holding on to the key.

Sarah and Julia are separated by time, but bound by circumstance. And their individual stories gradually converge as the mystery of what happened to Sarah and her family is ultimately revealed.  The actress who plays young Sarah (Mélusine Mayance) carries the weight of the film, which is (as those who read the book will likely surmise) quite sad, but thankfully, not overly bleak.

Sarah’s Key is powerful fiction rooted in historical fact. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it is a pretty good one. So look for it at an artsy theater near you. And bring tissues.

One thought on “Sarah’s Key”
  1. I agree with Mainstream Chick. As someone who really like the book, the movie did not disappoint. While it is certainly a Holocaust movie, it is not overly graphic. The way the two stories are interwoven is not confusing but rather really interesting.

    Bring tissues.

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