The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (TV Movie 2009) Poster

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The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler was a very compelling tale of a woman's attempt to save many Jewish children from the concentration camps
tavm25 August 2009
Months after my dad taped this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on DVD disc, I finally got to watch The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler with an aunt of mine today. This based on a true story account taking place during World War II of a young Polish woman's saving of thousands of Jewish children from the Gestapo is one of the most touching of such films I've yet seen. Anna Paquin brings warmth and compelling gravity to the title role and I'm not ashamed to admit that when Irena was being tortured by the Nazis, I nearly cried. In fact, I wish she had also gotten an Emmy nomination and not just Marcia Gay Harden as her mother, Janina Sendler, compelling as she was also. Also compelling were a couple of the children showcased: Sergei Novik-Marchenko as Jasio and Elea Hofland as Anna. And while Goran Visnjic as Stefan didn't have much time in his role, he still made a little impression in how his character loved Irena so when it was revealed in the end text that the two were eventually married, I was touched to know that he was indeed real! And then finding out Ms. Sendler was nominated for a Nobel prize while her real-life visual was shown made me so glad this movie was made after getting recognition when she eventually got found out by some high school students before her death in 2008. So if you go to a nearby Hallmark store and find a VHS or DVD of this movie, I highly recommend you watch The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.
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Dawn19 April 2009
I usually find Hallmark movies a bit schmaltzy, but the inclusion of Anna Paquin convinced me to give this a try. I'm glad I did. This was excellent, well-paced, and suspenseful. The character portraits were succinct but rich, and I found myself caring about what happened to everyone, which is quite a feat for a two-hour TV movie.

I won't give the plot away, but considering it's a WW2 movie about sneaking Jewish children out of a ghetto, you can probably guess where it's going.

Production values were excellent. It felt more like a feature than a TV movie. Give it a try.
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Disturbing but worthwhile story
vchimpanzee21 April 2009
In this fact-based story set in 1941 Poland, Irena Sendler is in charge of social services for Warsaw, which is unusual in itself. Rarely were women in charge of anything important in those days. Nearly half a million Jews from Poland and elsewhere have been moved to the Warsaw ghetto, and they are about to be moved again--to places with names like Treblinka and Auschwitz. Irena's job involves helping these people in whatever ways she can.

Irena wants to at least save the children, who can be taught to pretend they are Christian or even convert. But many families do not want to take a chance sheltering Jewish children (so convents and orphanages must be found), and the Jewish parents are reluctant to give up their children. Irena promises to keep a list of who she rescues and where they are so they can be returned after the war; the hiding place looks like it will work, but who knows?

Not everyone is willing to help Irena in her quest--even some of her employees don't see the point and don't want to get involved--but she finds several very caring people who can help. Some know ways the children can secretly escape. Meanwhile, the Germans are taking over Irena's department, and to get into the ghetto she must pose as a nurse and give typhus shots. A lot of good the shots will do, since the people who put Jews in the ghetto care little about them, and conditions allow disease to spread. And pretty soon, disease will be the least of the Jews' worries. But at least Irena believes she can save some of the children.

Of course, anyone who gets caught helping Jews faces dire consequences. There are narrow escapes, but even some Germans seem sympathetic.

Anna Paquin does a very good job. Two specific moments stand out in my mind. One is a scene where Irena has to pretend she doesn't care as a Jewish parent pleads for help, when we know she cares a lot. Another is the most disturbing scene in the movie, where Irena has finally been caught breaking the law.

Elea Hofland stands out as Anna, one of the more likable Jewish children, the one that wants to be a ballerina. I have to believe this was not a real child because what are the chances the character would have the same name as the star?

The actors playing the Jewish parents do a good job. So many are scared of what might happen to their children, and they portray this well.

There is also a red-haired Jewish boy who stands out in my mind but I don't remember his name. I'm going to say Jasio.

I wanted to say this was a film the whole family could watch, except maybe younger children. Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations tend to be family-friendly, even when tackling adult issues. But I'm not sure some of the violence in this movie would pass the test. It's certainly milder than "Schindler's List", and most of the violence is only implied. But there is a scene with an apparently dead body, and several scenes where it's clear if not obvious we are seeing people shot.

This is an important film because it tells some of what the Jews had to go through, and it makes clear how terribly they were treated just at the beginning, before they went to concentration camps. The gory details are avoided. And there are a few triumphant moments, even when we think things can't get any better for certain characters.

It's not a typical Hallmark film, but it does make important points.
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In the greatest darkness, the brightest lights shine.
Hallmark's sentimental touch has never been more appropriate than for this story of a Polish nurse that saved the life of 2500 Jewish children during WWII. Anna Paquin (BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE) is quickly becoming the Queen of TV movies. Her performance here is amazing. Marcia Gay Harden, who plays her equally brave mother, also gives a fine performance. The editing is quite sharp. The violent scenes, like the Gestapo's torture scenes, are jarring to say the least. I was expecting a female version of SCHINDLER'S LIST but after the film was over I could not help but compare this story to THE HIDING PLACE. Irena Sendler is a worthy heroine in the same league as Corrie Ten Boom. Some viewers might think "Enough already" with these kind of stories but when they are as good as this I will respond "Keep them coming!"
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"...we are at war. You are a soldier now".
classicsoncall6 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The words in my summary line were spoken by Irena Sendler (Anna Pacquin) to her friend and co-worker Stefania (Ruby Bentall), and effectively convey the idea that once the Polish women decided to help Jewish children escape the Warsaw Ghetto, they had crossed a line that could ultimately mean life or death. Besides the inspiration these types of film display, one is also reminded of how courageous and selfless the human spirit can be along side the worst kind of human brutality. The story of the Holocaust and the dissolution of families in the name of the master race is one that must be kept alive to remind mankind that evil exists in the world and that often it's too easy to cast a blind eye or even more egregiously, disavow it altogether. Hallmark Productions is to be commended for their realistic and unflinching look at a true life heroine, identified at the end of the film some sixty four years following the events of the story, at the age of ninety five. Blessed with a long life, Irena Sendler will remain an inspiration to all who have the opportunity to watch this amazing story.
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Courageous Heart-An Inspiration To Us All ****
edwagreen20 April 2009
A very fine holocaust film dealing with Irena Sendler's helping 2,500 Jewish children escape from the ghetto and face certain extermination.

The film is quite a change for Anna Paquin, who shows she can act unlike her 1993 totally undeserved supporting Oscar win for "The Piano."

This excellent film shall serve as an inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, we could not discover what happened to many of the children after the war. Unfortunately, their parents must have perished.

This is a film of great virtue, moral courage, the embodiment of a total triumph of the human spirit under such adversity.

Marcia Gay Harden, a terrific actress, has the role of the mother. Despite the fact that her part is generally understated, Harden displays that rare virtue of a parent caught up in what is right in such an era of horror.

Highly recommended.
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Really moving movie
UmpahpahBg27 December 2015
I knew very little about Irena Sendler before watching this movie. But after seeing it, I simply feel ashamed that we don't know more about the real heroes of the Second World War Although many already figured out, this is a true story about a young Polish woman's and fellow brave Warsaw citizens, passionately engaged in helping thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland. With such a powerful, dreadful story behind, it is really hard to make a movie that won't be touching, but The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler is much more than that. It start a bit slower, drawing the terrible conditions of Warsaw Ghetto, while we watch how the monstrous "Final Solution" for extermination of Jewish people taking its full strength. From the second half, movie is gaining on speed and intensity and really nail the watcher to the chair until the very end. The crew is very good, lead by wonderful Anna Paquin, who marvelously portrayed extremely courageous and bit dreamy Polish girl.

As one of the reviewers already said - this is not a typical Hallmarks movie, but certainly the great one. And I really recommend it for watching, if not more to the honor of braves such Irena Senler was.
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What an Amazing Story.
paulnbrowne22 March 2014
Very watchable biopic portraying the true life story of Irena Sendler. Although obviously not made on the same budget as Schindler's List, it is still an amazing story of a truly courageous Polish woman. The acting is good overall and excellent by Anna Paquin as the lead. It is another example of how individual people walk into danger, when most people would hide away. If you Google "Life in a Jar" you will get more information on Irena Sendler's amazing life and how her story finally came into the public consciousness in 1999. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Recognized by Yad Vashem in 1965 and supported from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in New York City. A very life affirming story.
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A rare gem
maureenbuchan18 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I came upon this movie by accident .. it was on TV late one night .. I did not see it from the start so did not know who was to be hero and who the villain ... but as the film progressed the heroism of Irena became apparent , and incredible what she would do to help children who were strangers to her.... It was amazing too and heartbreaking at the same time to see what a difficult choice those Jewish parents had to make . Knowing the only way their children could survive was for them to give up everything these parent held dear .. the language , their religion , the whole sense of themselves .. The previous reviewer said he did not think it as good as Schinder's list . this I found offensive , and thought he had not "got' the film as I had .. Terrible things happened during WW2 lots of them .. some we know about, and some we do not, and may never .. but it is not a competition !

This film told a tale which was new to me and I was very pleased to have turned the TV on late that night ..
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A Sort-Of Companion To "Schindler's List"
sddavis6317 December 2010
I found this movie a worthwhile watch. Over the years I've done a fair bit of reading about the Second World War, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust - but until now I've never heard of Irena Spendler. Her story is worth knowing, and is reasonably portrayed (albeit in a kind of bare bones fashion) by this made for TV movie. Anna Paquin put on a solid performance in the title role. Irena was a Polish social worker in Nazi- occupied Warsaw who worked in the Jewish Ghetto, and became determined to save the Jewish children who were there. In the end, by smuggling them out of the Ghetto and placing them with willing Polish families, 2500 children were saved.

This lacks the sustained intensity of "Schindler's List." For probably three-quarters of the movie, although the conditions of the Ghetto are portrayed as dreadful, the threat from the Germans seems muted and distant, albeit it ever present. Having said that, the intensity of the movie increases dramatically after Irena is arrested by the Gestapo, and the scenes in which she's tortured are quite unnervingly realistic. A nice touch at the movie's end was a few brief words from the real Irena Spendler, who died in 2008.

For those interested in this period of history, this is a worthwhile movie - not the best of the Holocaust-themed movies, but certainly a good one.
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Irena Sendler Movie
jsmithks6 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" (2009)is a true story well worth its time to see. In my 72 years of existence on this Earth, I know of no one with more fortitude, bravery, and compassion than Irena Sendler had when she smuggled 2,500 babies out of the Jewish Ghetto in Germany during World War II. Today, a movie will soon be released telling her story. Also, Irena is in the lineup to be nominated posthumously for the Nobel Peace Prize.
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Hollywoodisation of European history
andrejs-visockis2 October 2009
I watched this film last night at its Latvian premiere. It was a relatively big event owing to the fact that it was the first ever Hollywood production shot entirely on location in Riga. The film's theme is without any doubt an important one and the real life Irena Sendler definitely deserves to have a film made about her life. I'm just not sure that this was the film It is, of course, one thing that they shot the film in Riga, Latvia and not in Poland. Before the screening, one of the producers claimed that it was no longer possible to make a film about the Warsaw ghetto in Warsaw since everything had been destroyed during the war. That may be true, still others have managed. I understand that this film has been made for the American audiences who wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Madrid and Reykjavik but let's be honest, it didn't actually feel very Warsawy. Riga went through similar events during WWII, so the events depicted in this film didn't feel inaccurate against the actual background of the city of Riga but it just wasn't Poland.

However, that wasn't the biggest problem. Mediocre and unconvincing acting aside, everyone not only spoke broken English (plus they had public signs in English!!!) but they also spoke the way Americans do in Hollywood productions - I love you, son - I love, daddy. Excuse me but no one actually speaks with each other like this in real life in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else really for that matter. And what was it all about with this sudden outburst of cautious randiness in the closet? Yes, of course, we need a bit of fully clothed and well-tempered romance to make the Hollywood mission complete.

In many ways, this film tried to be Schindler's List. They even put some real life footage of Irena Sendler at the end of the film, just like they did it in Spielberg's film. But both these films, while touching upon very serious and important matters, flop entirely in terms of authenticity and believability. In other words, cheap Hollywoodisation of European history.
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Great Story In a Middling Production
Tom Dooley16 May 2017
This is a TV movie (CBS) on the true life of Irena Sendler, who served as a nurse in Warsaw during World War II. She could see what was happening all around her and decided to do something about it. So she started getting Jewish children out and into Polish homes. This led her to being involved in the Polish underground. It was originally called 'The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler' and did not have a misrepresentative 'war' action cover either, as it does in the UK release – which is shameful in its money grubbing attempt to mislead the public.

The film is told in linear style and traces her efforts right the way through the life of the ghetto. It is reasonably well made with some good period detail but it is also nakedly sentimental almost from the start. That is forgivable bearing in mind the subject matter.

It does balance things up as it develops and we get some nasty Nazi's but this is not an action packed war movie it is a character driven story. It is really about the people who cared and risked their lives to save others. The acting is all adequate but some of the children really ought to think of an alternative career option (yes I know they are young – but so was Shirley Temple) and everyone speaks in English as this was made for US TV. It was filmed in Riga too so some very nice settings and in the end it is a brilliant way to remember another brave and kind woman who put others before herself.
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