The Reader (Daldry, 2008)

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I fully expected to hate The Reader, seeing as it’s been labeled as the latest Weinstein Co. Oscar-bait undeserving of any accolades or praise. However, Stephen Daldry’s film about the long-lasting and devastating ramifications of inaction deserves a bit more respect. The core performances are all excellent, and the script favors the smaller and quieter character moments over the ham-handed monologues of other films of its ilk. What surprised me most was how the film skirts around the typical WWII/Holocaust themes and builds a more focused character study concerning weakness and longing. The film doesn’t ask you to sympathize with a woman guilty of choosing Jews to die in the gas chambers at Auschwitz like some critics have stated, but instead recognize the varying layers of perception and reality when consumed by suffocating surroundings. The Reader isn’t transcendent when it comes to these themes, but it certainly gives more credence to its characters’ plight than Benjamin Button or ChangelingThe Reader is quite formative at allowing Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, and newcomer David Kross to expand their characters beyond the expected outcome, developing a rhythm of time and space distinctly tuned for emphasizing performance.

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