Review: Sarah’s Key

The audience watching this French drama centred on the holocaust has a two tier narrative, switching between harrowing wartime events and the modern day.

The audience reaction seemed to be similarly layered, a mixture of sniffles and shifting restlessly in their seats, reflecting how the film is both moving and a little dull.

The centre point is the Vel D'Hiv round up of 1942, when French police arrested over 13,000 Jews and forced them to spend three days in a Velodrome before then organising their deportation to the death camps.

The link with the present day is an apartment in Le Marais, a formerly Jewish sector of Paris, which is the family home of an American journalist's in-laws.

While investigating a story about the Vel D'Hiv she begins to uncover the terrible story of what happened to Sarah, the young girl whose family were the apartment's previous occupants and who were taken away in 1942.

Most Holocaust films are shaped as an escalation of horror leading to the slaughterhouse. This travels in the oppo-site directions: the horrors are in the first half and the second is about how the effects of the Holocaust trickle down through the generations, gradually

diluting but still capable of inflicting painful jabs.

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It is an interesting approach, but the problem is that the film can't find a way to balance the modern day scenes with Kristen Scott Thomas as the journalist, with the ghoulish immediacy of the historical scenes. You move from families being wrenched apart, saying goodbye for the last time, to an affluent architect complaining about how stressful his life is and Scott Thomas fretting about ethics while busying herself researching Sarah's family tree.

It's like a dull night in front of the telly fitfully flicking between Schindler's List and an episode of Who Do You Think You Are.


Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring: Kirsten Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, Aiden Quinn.

Length: 110 mins