An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
THE READER opens in post-war Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn" and "The Lady with the Little Dog." Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life - this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna's past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. THE READER is a story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another. Written by
The Weinstein Company
The film is a series of profound moral dilemmaswhile contrived by the author, they are fair questionsthat resonate deeply in the 21st Century: The role of guilt in victims, perpetrators, individuals and collectively, as well as justice, forgiveness, redemption, shame and, of course, literacy and its role in Western thought.
All this is a pretty heady mix for a film, but Stephen Daldry (as with "The Hours" ) makes literary conceit play very naturally here. David Hare's screenplay and the remarkable cinematography of the always remarkable Roger Deakins together with a sensitive score by Nico Muhly, this is indeed rarefied film-making.
But the actors are what drag the audience into this story. David Kross is amazing as the young Michael who has to play a range of virginal innocent to wizened and bitter. It's the key role in the film, and we're all lucky he was found to play this role. And the ever confounding Kate Winslet. What an amazing career for this young actress! Running through a list of her credits, she has some of the best performances of the last decade: "Holy Smoke," "Eternal Sunshine ," "Iris," "Finding Neverland," "Little Children." But here she does something very different. Playing what amounts to a monster, we see that they too are human. Not many actresses could bring this off, but it may be her greatest accomplishment to date.
Ralph Fiennes brings a continuity to the work David Kross begins, and there's a brief appearance by Lena Olin who commands the dignity the role deserves.
I'm puzzled at the lukewarm reception to this film. I almost missed seeing it. And it turned out to be one of my favorite and the most heart-rending films of the year. All involved should be very proud.
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