Elle s'appelait Sarah (2010) Poster

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A new perspective on the holocaust
himelda16 August 2011
Most movies about the Second World War and the Holocaust show the massive killings of Jews by the Germans. This movie shows the French participation in the holocaust and it shows it with intense analysis of how it affected two women: Sarah a young girl who leaves her brother in a closet assuming she can come back to get him and a journalist who is researching the story years later and discovers how her own family was involved in war issues. Sarah's story is well presented, with the most tragic and sad events of her young life and how they affected her later life. Its a well told story that allows the viewer to see the war and its effects on a lovely and courageous young women. The journalist's story shows how even those who want to know about the war find it difficult to put the pieces together. And it also shows how traumatic it is for the people who try to piece it together. The message is that the holocaust affected us all in different ways but those who lived at the time and those who suffered deportation, even if they did not encounter death, were deeply wounded in more ways than is imaginable. I recommend this movie. Its scenes, music and the flow of events are wonderful. You are always with the story. And the analysis of the human suffering and the wounds of the war are very well portrayed. and in more ways that any one of us will ever be able to understand.
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A holocaust story with a difference
rayclister28 December 2010
I must admit that I approached this movie and it's subject matter with a fair amount of trepidation given the holocaust theme once again having sat through other movies such as Sophie's Choice, The boy with the striped pajamas and The Pianist. However I must say that the story here was compelling and the performance of Kristin Scott Thomas was excellent as I have come to expect from her in other movies I have her seen her in. Perhaps as it was the French who were first and foremost the main villains in this piece the story of those black days being diluted to a degree by the switch from the past to the present was in some ways a relief from other holocaust movies. Searching for the truth concerning Sarah kept me interested until the final minutes of the film and I recommend it to those lovers of European cinema.
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This movie is not about the past
ovolacto30 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the movie, and I read a few of the reviews. Even though I know we watched the same movie, I seem to have taken away a different message than many others. To me, the movie I saw was not so much about France in 1942, the "Vel' d'Hiv" Roundup, or how it affected the life of one small girl. To me, the movie was about the nature of man - how little it changes, how much it affects the world, and how events we look on as "horrible," "tragic," and "history" are really just parts of our everyday lives.

The movie grabs you right from the start when one family, the Starzynskis, is taken from their home and packed into a small velodrome with 8,000 other French Jews before being transported to concentration camps. Viewers comment, "I didn't know this ever happened," or "How could people treat each other this way" when the truth is that this type of thing is still happening today in various parts of the world right under our noses. Oh, the faces have changed, along with the players, and the circumstances, but the cold, dark soul of humankind still carries on its atrocities behind a veil of self-righteousness, and complacent ignorance. This is what conflict looks like, and this is what it does to people. There are many more casualties than just the just the poor souls duped into putting on uniforms, and laying down their lives in that ironic twist called patriotism. They kill on the premise of preserving life, imprison others on the premise of creating freedom, and tear down the fiber of man on the premise of building up mankind. The worst part is that each and every one of us is just as guilty as any who ever gave an order or pulled a trigger because we allow this insanity to continue.

The movie has another side as well. It also shows how, even in times of adversity, men can have compassion. The movie's heroine, Sarah, likely would not be alive today if not for the compassion first of a camp guard, and second by a family who took pity upon her and her fellow escapee. And, then, there's the compassion of Sarah, herself, who, in trying to save her brother, ended up being his executioner, and found it impossible to live out her life in the knowledge of what she had done. It shows how even though mankind can collectively act in heartless fashion, there still remain among us those whose hearts have not turned to stone, and who still feel the power of the bonds of brotherhood. Despite all of the circumstances surrounding that "different" Summer of '42, Sarah does not place the blame on any other but herself, and, after attempts to erase her past fail, she takes her own life.

No, no matter what you may feel, this movie is not about the past. This movie only uses the past to illustrate the present. All of us who sit around content with our relative peace while innocent lives are taken in Afghanistan, while mothers abandon their children in Somalia, and while atrocity still affects the world like the festering sore of some deadly infection are just as guilty as if we'd done the deeds ourselves. Like Sarah, we will all find that we cannot hide peace in some closet, lock it away for days, and hope that we can return to find it just as we left it. And, also like Sarah, once we discover what we have done to our world, we will have to try to find a way to live with ourselves in the realization of what we have done.
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Christian Tsoutsouvas12 January 2011
When the humble home of a poor Jewish family is raided by a vile strand of the French authorities hoping to get in Hitler's good books, their well-meaning daughter Sarah (a heartwrenching Mélusine Mayance) instinctively hides and locks her little brother in the closet to keep him safe from the unspeakable horrors of the Vel d'Hiv detention centre for Jews. It is only after she and the rest of the family seems well beyond escape that she realises the long-term consequences of her decision and is determined to get back to free him, holding onto that precious key relentlessly as she, like thousands of others, tries her hardest to endure the atrocities of the Holocaust. We as the audience follow this earlier part her captivating story – another of those outstanding tales that are of of a personal nature yet have a grand historical context – mostly on our own, with regular cuts to American-born Parisian-resident journalist Julia Jarmond (the masterful Kristin Scott Thomas) who is writing about the events concerned and soon develops a keen interest in Sarah's life. Her segments are much less harrowing, being set in the present day and involving much more trivial complications than those relating to Sarah, and are actually a welcome relief when they come.

Julia's irritating struggle to dissuade her husband (Frédéric Pierrot) from having her get an abortion after she has endured two miscarriages is as poignant a subplot as any in a drama, allowing us to become familiar with her character before we discover the final fate of the girl along with her. Her inquiries lead her to many different people who are linked to these affairs, from her own father-in-law (Michel Duchaussoy) to Sarah's only son (Aidan Quinn), a simple western entrepreneur clueless about his own mother's past. The fact that a handful of these scenes are in English brings another refreshing touch of variety to the film, helping to make it the must-see beautiful cinematic triumph that it is.
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Quietb-126 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Sarah Starzynski, a child, is among the nearly 10,000 Paris Jews rounded up by the French police and turned over to the Nazis for extermination. She hides her younger brother and carries the key to his hiding place.

The film goes back and fourth from the wartime period to modern period. The Thomas' story line pales in comparison to the impact of the war time story. The flash forwards while often distracting, and frequently conversations in restaurants, are a needed break from the gut wrenching intensity and horror of the holocaust story.

A good but stoic performance by Thomas is dwarfed by the performance of Melusine Mayance as the young Sarah.

It is a excellent movie that will not get wide distribution. It's a story that must be told. It took 53 years for the French government to apologize for the atrocity. An outstanding example of the emotional power of cinema.
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a powerful, harrowing and moving tale of redemption and forgiveness
gregking415 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Recent films like The Reader and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas have attempted to put a human face on the vast tragedy of the Holocaust, and have reminded us of the legacy and the consequences of that awful period of 20th century history. Just when we thought that there were no more Holocaust stories left to tell, along comes this powerful and moving French drama. The film uses a little known event from French history as a starting point for a deeply affecting drama about guilt, redemption, family secrets, the comfort of strangers, and hope in a time of war and madness. In 1942, French authorities rounded up thousands of Jewish citizens and confined them inside the Paris Velodrome in appalling conditions for several days. They endured stifling heat, a lack of water and food, and basic sanitary conditions like toilets and showers. They were then shipped off to transit camps, where women and children were forcibly separated from their families. One such family was the Starzynskis. When the police burst into their small apartment, ten-year old Sarah (Melusine Mayance) hid her younger brother inside a wardrobe, locking the door behind her. She kept the key throughout her ordeal, hoping to return home to rescue him. The film alternates between these harrowing scenes and the present day, where Paris based American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is writing an article on this disturbing and shameful incident. But as she probes into the past, Julia discovers a personal connection between the fate of Sarah's family and her own family. She learns that her husband's family purchased the Starzynski's home soon after the family was removed. This makes her more determined to discover Sarah's fate, a decision that puts a strain on her marriage. Her quest takes her from present day Paris to Italy and the United States, and her journey has a big impact on her own personal life. Scott Thomas has previously delivered strong performances in other French dramas (Leaving, I've Loved You So Long, etc), but here she finds one of the more emotionally substantial roles of her career. Her intelligent presence, obsessive nature and air of sadness lift this solid and moving drama. Also impressive is Mayance, who brings a feisty quality, resilience and quiet determination to her role as Sarah as she moves through a variety of emotions - fear, doubt, terror – with great conviction. Niels Arestrup, who was so effectively menacing in A Prophet, brings gruff but unexpectedly tender quality to his performance as a farmer who reluctantly shelters Sarah from the authorities. Sarah's Key is based on the best-selling novel written by Tatiana De Rosnay, in which the ghosts of the Holocaust continue to haunt the survivors, who are often wracked with guilt. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner handles the material with great sensitivity, but avoids descending into cheap melodrama. The harrowing scenes set inside the Velodrome bristle with a palpable sense of outrage. Paquet-Brenner maintains a steady but assured pace as the film builds towards its final, emotionally devastating scene when Julia meets Sarah's son (played by Aidan Quinn), who discovers the truth of his own history. Technical contributions are all excellent, from Francoise Dupertuis' production design, to Eric Perron's costumes, Max Richter's poignant and unobtrusive score, Pascal Ridao's evocative cinematography, and Herve Schneid's editing which fluidly moves between the different time frames. Sarah's Key is a powerful, harrowing and moving tale that explores one of the darkest and most shameful periods of France's history, but it ultimately proves to be something of an uplifting tale of redemption and forgiveness.
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pearshake14 February 2011
An American journalist in Paris embarks on a story about the Holocaust and discovers connections between the past, her present marriage and her unborn child. Beginning as an article on the 1942 roundup of Jews in France as they were sent off to Auschwitz, it soon becomes a journey of self-discovery as the protagonist stumbles upon a terrible secret of a family forced out of their home and a young girl called Sarah who makes an impulsive decision to leave her younger brother locked in a cupboard. A film about the Holocaust is certain to be moving, but the circumstances in this one are harrowing, the truth astonishing, and the coincidences as unbelievable as the tragedy itself. It is a journalist's quest to dig up the lives of others and unleash the truth, but this film show the price of these actions. Sarah's Key takes us from Paris to Brooklyn to Florence and ultimately to the centre of the heart – showing that even the truth has its cost. And the sadness, as much as we try to unlock it, can never be erased.
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Very worthy movie
markbreslauer4 January 2011
The movie deals with a harrowing episode in European history in a convincing fashion. It cleverly shifts from the past to the present, all the while building towards a tidy conclusion that ties up most of the loose ends, but leaves the audience guessing about the possible future of some of the main characters.

I was slightly disappointed that a few of the present day scenes were a little too frivolous for a movie that was built around such a tragic episode. However some good may come from this if it makes the movie more accessible to the younger audience, who might not be aware of all of the horrors of Jewish persecution during WW2.
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Emotional and tragic story.
ihrtfilms23 January 2011
When a Jewish family get arrested by Hitler siding French police, young Sarah not understanding the magnitude of what is occurring locks her younger brother in a closet, expecting to come back and recover him shortly. Realizing quickly that the situation she is in is far more terrible than expected she is desperate to escape and set him free. Sick, her and her family are taken to a camp where parents are separated from the children and are never seen again. Recovered Sarah and another young girl find an escape and run through the countryside to safety. The other girl becomes sick and they are both taken in by a older French couple but as the girl worsens there is a risk of exposing the girls as Jews. Although the young girl doesn't make it, Sarah is hidden away till the Nazi's leave and Sarah pleads with them to take her to Paris to find her brother. The journey is fraught with danger and the end obvious to us.

In modern day Paris, Julia and her family inspect an apartment of her in laws that her architect French husband will redo. Julia, am American, works as a journalist and wants to cover a story about the use of a velodrome where Parisian Jews where herded to and discovers the story of Sarah. An obsession grows as Julia is determined to find out what happened to the young girl and to find out how her husbands family came to own the flat.

This is a very fine film that is equally a historical story as well as a mystery as Julia seeks out the truth with a fine performance by Kristen Scott Thomas as Julia. The film flit's between the too separate yet connected story lines. Scenes of confusion within the velodrome are horrid too watch as are the scenes of separation of parents and children in the camp. We as the audience can almost guess the outcome of Sarah's young brother left locked in a closet whose key Sarah clings to, yet the outcome is still gut wrenching and Sarah's scream is enough for us to understand what she finds without us having to have it confirmed visually.

The obsession of Julia is a fascinating one; trying to work out first how the flat became someone elses, to searching for some sign of what became of the young girl takes her her far and wide and she encounters an array of people including Sarah's son, who is clueless to his Mother's past.

Scott Thomas gives quite a wonderful yet almost subdued performance as she struggles with the horrors of the past and her families connection to events as well as dealing with her own personal torment. The film is extraordinarily moving in it's telling of Sarah with her experience resonating and shaping those that come after her. Yet because the film chooses to focus on two timelines, we are never entirely dragged into the horrors of the Holocaust and whilst we are never far from them, it never overbalances itself. It is a fine film that depicted another story of the many thousands that WWII has given us, one that for France is of shame and one that, as with so many others continues to be relevant and effect those generations after.

More of my reviews at iheartfilms.weebly.com
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atrocities require complicity
Lee Eisenberg30 August 2011
Gilles Paquet-Brenner's "Elle s'appelait Sarah" ("Sarah's Key" in English) focuses on an American journalist (Kristin Scott Thomas) trying to find a French-Jewish girl who got rounded up by the Vichy government but escaped the camps. So, the journalist travels from place to place to try and learn what became of Sarah, and the full story of Sarah's locking her brother in a closet so that he wouldn't get arrested. The main point that the movie makes is not only the links that we have to past incidents, like the apartment that the journalist buys, but that atrocities require complicity. In this case, France's Vichy government was perfectly happy to assist the Nazis in the genocide against anyone whom the Nazis considered inferior.

Does the movie have any downsides? Well, maybe jumping back and forth between the present and the past is a little confusing, but it doesn't really drag the movie down. To be certain, I had never heard of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup before seeing "Sarah's Key". The main that is that this is part of history, it and needs to get told so that it never happens again. Really good movie.
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A Perfect Movie
Claudio Carvalho29 December 2012
In July, 1942, the French Police breaks in the apartment of the Jewish Starzynski family and arrest them in the Velodrome of Vel' d'Hiv and then in a local concentration camp with other Jewish families. The ten-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance) hides her little brother Michel in a closet in her bedroom to escape from the police officers but she does not succeed on giving the closet key to a neighbor to rescue her brother. When her parents are transferred to a German concentration camp, Sarah flees from the French guards with another girl and they meet the family of Jules Dufaure (Niels Arestrup) that help her to return to Paris to rescue her younger brother.

In 2009, the American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her French husband Bertrand Tezac (Frédéric Pierrot) plan to reform his apartment in Paris to live with their teenage daughter. Julia is assigned to write an article about the notorious deportation of French Jews to German concentration camps in 1942. During her investigation, she learns that the apartment of her husband's family belonged to Sarah's family. She becomes obsessed by Sarah's life and to find the fate of the little girl.

I have just bought the Blu-Ray "Elle s'appelait Sarah", a.k.a. "Sarah's Key", and I found it a perfect movie about a shameful and not divulged period of France's history in World War II. The writer Tatiana De Rosnay has written a magnificent novel and Serge Joncour and Gilles Paquet- Brenner have written an engaging screenplay. The director Gilles Paquet- Brenner made a heartbreaking film that is never corny.

Kristin Scott Thomas is one of the best contemporary European actresses and she has another awesome performance in the role of a flawed, stubborn and selfish character that speaks perfect English and French and becomes obsessed to discover the truth about her husband's family. Her charm and elegance is impressive for a forty-nine-year-old woman. But the girl Mélusine Mayance "steals" the movie in the role of Sarah. The cinematography and music score are beautiful and costumes cover different periods and locations. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "A Chave de Sarah" ("The Sarah's Key")
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A young girl's desperation to rescue her brother amid the horrors of the holocaust
aland-330 August 2011
Films about the holocaust are always grim, but the French production Sarah's Key adds a couple of twists that increase the stress.

The story begins in Paris in the summer of 1942 when the collaborationist Vichy government of France launches a round up of Jewish families. And here is the first cruel twist. It's not German troops breaking down doors, it is the Parisian police force, ever polite in its brutality. The second twist is more harrowing. Hearing the crashing on the front door, 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance) stuffs her younger brother into a secret closet (camouflaged as part of the bedroom wall) and locks the door.

Sarah and her parents are herded with thousands of other Jews into the Vélodrome d'Hiver, an indoor cycling arena, and left there without food, water or toilets. Here, Sarah's overarching struggle begins. She must rescue her brother.

From here on, Sarah's story is inter-cut with episodes from the present day when French-American investigative journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her architect husband start to renovate the apartment once occupied by the Starzynski family. Learning of the sad history of the "Vél d'Hiv", Julia starts digging into the apartment's history and tracing the fates of Sarah and her family.

The first two thirds of the film focus on Sarah's struggle. Separated from her parents, she seeks to escape from an internment camp and get back to Pari. As we follow her, we also watch as Julia discovers that, while both the adult Starzynskis died during the war, there is no record of what happened to Sarah and her brother.

And here is the dramatic oddity of Sarah's Key. The culmination of Sarah's quest occurs at about the 75-minute mark of this 111-minute film. The half-hour coda is necessary to tie up loose ends such as the fate of Julia's troubled marriage and the joys and disappointments of her search for Sarah. But the tension that carries the first two acts is lost.

Despite that loss, Sarah's Key packs an emotional wallop that will stay with you after you leave the theatre.

So its weak reception in the United States (it grossed just over $100,000 on just five screens when it opened there) is dispiriting. Perhaps the U.S. fear of subtitles is to blame: a good two-thirds of the film is in French with English subtitles. In fact, I suspect that writer-director Gilles Paquet-Brenner could have made the entire film in French, and that making Julia bilingual was his attempt to lure an American audience.
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Starts with horrors and builds into inward, probing beauty
secondtake4 April 2012
Sarah's Key (2010)

A two pronged film with a harrowing account of French anti-Semitism in World War II paralleling a contemporary account of a reporter discovering the details of one Jewish family destroyed by those events. Eventually the tales collide, and coincide, and another kind of meaning arises about accountability and acceptance.

At first this tale might strike you as both forced--the two narratives are very disjointed and separate, back and forth--and painfully familiar--another riveting, heart wrenching version of Jewish suffering and determination during the Holocaust. But stick with it, because it picks up complexity and nuance as it goes. Once you realize the roundup and mistreatment and eventual killing of the Jews is led in this case by French officials, you know this has a different kind of chill to it. And then you find that the contemporary story is literally connected to the 1940s story.

The leading actress in the 2010 thread, Kristin Scott Thomas, is one of those rare actresses who can command the screen with quiet brooding. She's convincing in a way that we identify with, and our sympathies are with her from the start. As she uncovers the facts of the past, and faces varying degrees of concern and indifference, she herself undergoes a transformation. This, by the end, is really what the story is about, the pertinence for our own times. The specific events around the title idea, the young girl's key, are horrifying to the point of being slightly sensationalist, but the rest of the movie is so studied and careful, you take it in stride.

In all I was surprised and eventually deeply moved by this movie. It's filmed with exquisite camera-work and is sharply edited. And most of all, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner gets the most from all the actors, from the children in the prison camp to the adults on all sides showing their human sides in restrained ways, without caricature.
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Sarah's key to a can of worms
mmunier2 January 2011
I was invited to this movie and had no idea of what it was about. Well it did not take long to know it was another holocaust story! I too like the way it was done with an opening into the dark past, about one week after I was born, so we're looking at almost 70 years ago, then we move back and force into last year 2009(not counting the last two days in 2011). There is a point made clear that this horror actually in this case was mainly perpetrated by French people themselves. It seems inconceivable, but the sad truth is that Jews weren't really the flavour of the era in Europe and this certainly made the task easier for the Nazis. But this story is really focused on one little girl who is caught in a two fold tragedy, perhaps one fold to prevent another. This impact the rest of the story with enormous consequences. We are to follow it through the research of a journalist who became obsessed with her finding about it. A well worth effort for all concerned. I will have to come back here for those talented and knowledgeable reviewers to learn a little more about it. But for now I have to say it was an excellent film
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rven310 January 2012
I have only just finished watching 'Sarah's Key', and I am speechless with awe. I have been deliberately and methodically watching Kristin Scott Thomas's French films, and this one stands out above the others. Based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, 'Sarah's Key' follows the journey of journalist, Julia Jarmond (Scott Thomas)as she searches for answers to what happened to the two children of a Jewish family - the Starzynski's - who were removed from their apartment in Paris by French police during the summer of 1942. Jarmond's connection with this child is that her husband's grandparents had moved into this same apartment only a month after Sarah's family were taken away.

Based on real events, the film comfortably blends the story of Sarah from 1942 onwards with the almost obsessive need Julia Jarmond has to know what became of the child Sarah once the war ended. Her quest takes her from Paris to New York to Florence, and then back to New York.

This story is beautifully told. Performances are solid and realistic, and this is aided by a tight and relevant script. Despite the often sad and distressing subject matter, the line between story-telling and voyeurism is never crossed, and emotion is delivered with realism and is never mawkish.

Kristin Scott Thomas deserves a special mention, as does Melusine Mayance who played Sarah as a child. Both performances drew me in to engage with the story at close range.

If I could give this 12 out of 10 I would!
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Moving issues and a sense of humanity
roland-scialom19 December 2011
The movie presents:

(1) The drama of french Jews, seized by french authorities and imprisoned in the Velodrome d'Hiver, in appalling sanitary conditions; families torn apart with their members held in french concentration camps during some days; many thousands of innocent people shipped in trains towards German extermination camps. This drama is not presented as a journalistic matter, but as lived by Sarah.

(2) The saga and suffering of the Jewish girl (Sarah), who passes through severe ordeals to escape from her captors, in order to free her beloved small brother from the closet where she made him hide, in an attempt to save him from the french police who were seizing Jews to hand them to the Germans, and who discover that her small brother died in the closet.

(3) The saga of the American-french journalist, Julia, who decides to disclose the story of the Jewish family, the Starzynskis, who use to live in the parisian apartment where her french husband (Bertrand) is planning to live. Bertrand's family started to live in this apartment a few days after the Starzynskis were seized by french authorities to be deported. Part of Julia's saga is also, the decision to keep her baby instead of making an abortion.

(4) The sense of humanity of some people when most of the humanity has lost the sense of mercy and commits the worst crimes against humanity. The kindness and generosity of the Dufaure, hiding, adopting Sarah as their daughter and raising her. The generosity of Bertrand's grand father who helps the Dufaure to raise Sarah sending regularly some cash to them.

(5) The celebration of truth and life when, at the end of the film, William, Sarah's son, meets Julia to thanks her for having helped him to discover the former and dramatic life of his mother, and discovers during this rendezvous that Julia put the name of Sarah to the little girl who was born, thanks to Sarah's decision of not aborting. This last scene is a kind of perpetuation of the life of the original Sarah, and William realizes it. I also allow myself to add that the immortality of each of us is the result of the remembrance of the memories of each of us by those who will live after we have died.

This film is perfect. The actors are impeccable. The timing of the action is perfect. So the deserves to be seen, specially by those who like to weep a little.
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Two Holocausts are Paralleled
bytruth25 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The movie, Sarah's Key, is a finely crafted masterpiece, which parallels the plights of thousands of French children who suffered in the World War II Holocaust during and the continued worldwide holocaust of one billion children, who have perished through abortions.  While doing investigative reporting on the Holocaust's 60th anniversary, an emotionally involved American journalist, Julia Jarmond, becomes entrenched in finding two missing Jewish children, she discovers that she has a baby growing inside her. As her family's flat is being remodeled for her family,  a closet door is flung wide. The key to the mystery surrounds Sarah, the Jewish sister who locks her brother in the closet. She holds the key, which could allow him to live, mirroring how the journalist also holds a key, which determines the life of her unborn child.  

In the City of Lights, darkness is exposed. Many French at that time turn their back on the plight of the Jewish children just as the journalist's husband turns his back on his responsibility to care for his unborn child.  Julia discovers her husband's  grandfather did the honorable thing, but her husband does not choose to do so, and their marriage ends in divorce. The journalist's co-workers marvel that the French could let this happen in the middle of Paris. On the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade, people today continue to sanction the killing of unborn children. Irony occurs when the journalist views thousands   of the perished Jewish children's pictures.  There are no names or faces to affix to walls in the largest Holocaust of the 20th century. Another irony is the stench that filled the apartment when the journalist's husband's grandparents took over the flat, an obvious clue that something is rotten in Paris. The aftermath of abortion is not so obvious.  Sarah's death indicates her lifelong guilt over the demise of her brother. Julia will never have to live with that guilt because she made the honorable decision. Her  daughter, Sarah, is the key.   Her life is evidence of a decision to do the right thing.
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A Dark Secret in France's History Revealed
gradyharp22 November 2011
SARAH'S KEY (Elle s'appelait Sarah) is a brilliant film on many levels: the story itself, based on the best selling novel by Tatiana De Rosnay so beautifully adapted for the screen by Serge Joncour and Gilles Paquet-Brenner, directed with subtlety and verismo recreation of period by Gilles Paquet-Brenner assisted by cinematographer Pascal Ridao and scored by Max Richter, and the level of acting by not only some top notch actors by also by a cast of extras who seem so committed to the project that they feel very real. The story is a tough one to tell - the surprise being the fact that France was complicit with the German occupiers in gathering the French Jews, sequestering them in hideous conditions and even sending them off to the extermination camps in Germany and Poland. WE have been lead to belie that the Nazis were the sole perpetrators of the Jewish Holocaust and to learn that other countries knowingly participated in the eradicating the 'Jewish problem' is startling and terrible sad to learn.

The film opens in Paris in 1942 when French officials rounded up over 10,000 Jews and placed them in local camps. Eventually over 8,000 were sent off to German concentration camps. As 10-year old Sarah and her family are being arrested, she hides her younger brother in a closet. After realizing she will not be allowed to go home, Sarah does whatever she can to get back to her brother. The Strazynskis are placed in a filth transit facility in Paris awaiting the inevitable: the father is sent to concentration camp first followed by the separation of the mother and Sarah - the children are separated form their parents and sent to a special camp where in time Sarah and her young friend manage to escape so that Sarah can return to Paris to rescue her brother Michel. Once in Paris Sarah must dress as a boy to disguise her from the German investigators. When she finally is able to return to her home she uses the key she has held in secret to open the door of the closet where she hid her brother and obviously finds him dead from starvation. Sarah is cared for by Jules and Geneviève Dufaure (Niels Arestrup and Dominique Frot) until she is old enough to care for herself (the older Sarah is played with superb facility by Mélusine Mayance) and we lose sight of her.

In 2009, a journalist named Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas) is on assignment to write a story on the deported Jews in 1942. When she moves into her father-in-law's childhood apartment, she realizes it once belonged to the Strazynski family, and their daughter Sarah. Julia has private pains: she discovers that she is pregnant after being told she could never conceive and faces the fact that her husband Bertrand (Frédéric Pierrot) does not want her to keep the pregnancy. Julia becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Sarah and in doing so she slowly uncovers the difficult history of a girl so brave that she risked her life in the time of war only to become unable to retain her name, changing her life in such a way that she marries, has a son, and dies in a sad way. Julia uncovers all of this as she feels that in past times her young daughter Zoé (Karina Hin) could have been Sarah. Julia's life changes considerably and she returns to her home in New York where she discovers the final truths about Sarah and her key.

One of the aspects of this film that makes it so meaningful is the fact the Kristin Scott Thomas can move so easily between French and English - a small fact, perhaps, as she is totally bilingual, but it helps the audience to understand her obsession to discover the truth about France's darkest hour. The supporting cast is excellent and the recreation of WW II Paris is palpably real. This is a brilliant film - one that deserves the attention of every one on so many levels.

Grady Harp
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Riveting new Holocaust tale told through parallel construction
vickkynight3 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Just as we saw with "The Reader," here is a different Holocaust story to tell. Most frightening of all, this took place NOT in Germany, but in France.

Siding with Adolf Hitler, and hoping to gain favor, the French authorities round up many Jews and send them to the Vel d'Hiv detention centre.

In an attempt to save her brother, little Sarah (played masterfully by Melusine Mayance) locks her little brother in the closet and hides the key on herself. Once she realizes this may have the opposite effect, Sarah is determined to escape and free her brother. No matter what happens, she keeps that key close to her at all times, even while the most heinous atrocities go on around her.

Now flash forward 70 years or so, and we meet journalist Julia Jarmand, an American living in Paris (played excellently by the always wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas). The movie plays out this type of parallel construction cutting back from Sarah's efforts to save her little brother, to Scott Thomas investigating the story about the atrocities at the Vel d'Hiv detention centre.

For the record, this type of parallel construction really works in the film. Every time we see Julia Jarmand investigating the story, it's like a sigh of relief after watching the terrible moments little Sarah must endure to get back to her family's residence and unlock her starving brother.

Julia discovers a connection to little Sarah and her story and the movie takes a turn for the interesting. That is all I want to say, as I don't wish to give away too much. See the movie; it will likely be the French entrant in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars this year. Was one of the best films I saw this year.
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Not a holocaust film...An extended family mystery based on untold history
rroberto1817 August 2011
I just couldn't get through the best-selling book of the same name. So I'm surprised to be brought to tears by its engrossing and passionate film adaptation. Here's hoping the novel's fans can appreciate everything on the screen as opposed to griping about what may have been left out (a rare occurrence).

Calling this a "holocaust film" ignores its two major themes: (1) family secrets prove no match for a journalist's desire to connect the dots to reveal the "mystery history" behind them; (2) when an entire country buries its past (in this case, France), it silences the stories of unlikely heroes in the process -- but rarely forever.

"Sarah's Key" deserves more than the limited release it has gotten so far, perhaps due to the "holocaust film assumption" and some lukewarm reviews. This cinematic gem is as flawlessly cast, directed, scripted and paced as the Weinstein Company's triumph of last year "The King's Speech" -- and just as deserving of Oscar attention.

Dramas based on historical events are frequently budgeted and filmed as already-familiar sweeping sagas told on a grand scale. By trusting in its characters rather than its big events to move the plot and the audience, "Sarah's Key" gives us a new cinematic template with which to examine and portray the past and why it organically enthralls us today.
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Key Movie
writers_reign5 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the finest French films of this year - it was actually released last year but has only just reached the UK - and is a film you watch with tears in your eyes. There's a lovely irony in the fact that Kristin Scott Thomas is more than able to carry a film by herself, so accomplished is she yet on two occasions recently her outstanding acting has been matched by a female co-star; in I've Loved You So Long it was Elsa Zylberstein as a kid sister and here it is Melusine Mayance as a kid in the literal sense. She is, in fact, the eponymous Sarah who uses the key in question to lock her younger brother in a secret cupboard when the family is rounded up by the French police and taken to the notorious Vel d'Hiv prior to the gas chambers of Germany and Poland. Thomas is the modern day journalist whose six degrees of separation is too close for comfort to Sarah's tragic family, and she sets out to unravel the past. Both lead performances are beyond praise and there is fine support from the ever reliable Niels Arestrup but, as one poster has already mentioned, the beautiful mood - constructed piece by piece as a mosaic, is shattered abrupty in the last reel and a half, the only thing that gives this a rating less than 10.
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Great movie, disappointing ending
I really love world war II movies. And when I'm in the mood for a moving piece, holocaust films really ground me to how wonderful a life we have today.

I've seen hundreds of world war II films, done tons of research on the era, read lots of books, and I had never even heard of the event in France that this movie based itself on. It was quite a great thing to experience such a unique story. Something different from all the other movies of the same genre (and a welcome relief from all of these darn superhero movies nowadays).

The story is unique, and that in and of itself is worth knowing. I loved it. Kept me on the edge of my seat. I kept wondering about this and that. How was this going to wrap up?

But I was a bit disappointed at the end. The general theme of this being a movie of the event that happened in France fades away and you are now focused on the journalist. The movie just seems to go on too long and just dives into the unknown with characters we're not really familiar with.

The ending was sudden. And I think the idea was good, but was not executed the best. It was playing around the emotions of the son, who we don't really get to know that well. It was just...off.

All in all, it's a good movie to watch. I would suggest it. But don't expect to be watching another holocaust movie. The holocaust scenes end about half way through. The rest is set in the modern day and centers around the journalist trying to find out about the little girl.
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It is a very sad but highly recommended film
psagray21 July 2014
Film based on the book by Tatiana Rosnay, "Sarah s'appelle Elle". It is a thrilling movie, the tragic and true story told.

It is a good movie which highlights the story itself, both past and present; Kristín splendid thomas Scott and the two actresses who play the character of Sarah (the girl I remember not having any dialogue but we passed with the look and body language weight that carries in her soul).

It is a very sad but highly recommended film, to reconsider what would we face the difficult decisions that arise in the film.

The story is shot and told in a simple manner and the two stories intertwine, I think perfectly, although inevitably has more dramatic weight than last. And as always, the French cinema remains a reference when counting the relationships between a man and a woman. In that sense, it is delicious the first meeting between Kristin Scott Thomas and Aidan Quinn.

Great soundtrack, with narrative pace, great atmosphere and good use of flashbacks.
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Great touching movie
B Onsberg20 June 2012
It makes one wonder how public officials - and how (most) policemen are like dogs - just following their masters commands/orders - right or wrong, they don't care.....

People who believe in the systems,are willing o commit murder, just so they can polish their little grey heads.

A great movie, with a not very happy ending, and definitely not frances finest hour.

In Denmark (im a dane) ordinary people delayed and prevented the Gestapo and their hired hands -the danish police - from taking our Jewish neighbours, instead we hide them, and smugled the to Sweden.
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Past is outstanding and the present is above average...Mélusine Mayance steals the show.
Saad Khan19 March 2012
Elle s'appelait Sarah – Sarah's Key – CATCH IT (French) (B+) The Sarah's Key is a one of a kind Holocaust story about a young girl in Paris. On July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard "their secret hiding place" and promises to come back for him. From their Sarah's heart wrenching journey start to go back and rescue her locked brother. Sarah's story unfolds in today's time when a journalist plans to move into her in-laws apartment which was taken by the French during World War II. The heart of Sarah's Key has to be the young talented actress "Mélusine Mayance", her portrayal as Sarah, the girl who mistakenly locks her young brother thinking he will be safe is truly heart wrenching. The scene when she finally meets her brother is heart wrenching. Kirsten Scott Thomas as the journalist unfolding the truth has done a fantastic job. I must applaud the director who shot the Holocaust era scenes beautifully. Sarah's Key is a beautiful movie though when Kirsten finds Sarah's grandson I thought it'll led to the publication of her remarkable story and about what she went through all those years mentally and physically but it turned into Kirsten's character finding herself. Which was little weird for me. Overall, Sarah's Key is highly effective and especially the 1914S scenes made this movie memorable.
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