I'm quite sure that director Gilles Paquet-Brenner feels that his latest film "Sarah's Key" is a much more profound and important film than it really is. So the purpose of this review is to explain why it's not, but could have been.


Having not even come close to the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, I leave it tto those who did read it to decide which was better, the novel or the film. I really can't imagine the film being better considering that the problems with the film deal more with the story than its cinematic values.


The film's backdrop is the Velodrome d'Hiver Jewish Round-up in July of 1942. The Round-up was part of the Final Solution plan devised by the Nazis at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 to rid Europe of Jews. The Paris Round-up took place over two days - July 16 and 17 - and involved the arrest of 13,000 Jews.

The film didn't deviate to far from the reality. The process began at 4:00 A.M. on July 16, 1942 with the strictest arrests rule: there was to be no discussion, utilities were to be switched off, animals and keys given to the nearest neighbor, and all children were to be taken...period.


This night the militia came to the flat of Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance) and her family including her little brother Michel. The father was away and Sarah thought it might be a good idea to hide Michel since the police had not yet seen him.


So she thoughtfully hides him in a secret closet in the bedroom just before the police escort the she, her mother and later her father to the Velodrome to await shipment to a Polish concentration camp for later execution.


It was at the Velodrome that she realizes she made a mistake and needed to get Michel out of the now locked closet.

The film then fast forwards to the current time with a reporter named Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) about to unknowingly move into the same apartment with her small family. The apartment belongs to her husband's family and they took it over after that faithful night.


However Julia has just finished a piece on the 1942 event and becomes curious as to how her in-laws got possession of the property.


Now begins the retelling of the story of Sarah and her frantic efforts to get back to the Paris apartment to rescue her brother.


Sarah's story is heroic indeed, compelling at least but the rhythm of her story his interrupted by the constant flash forwards to curent date issues with Julia and her husband Bertrand (Frederic Pierrot).


Julia and Bertrand are a middle aged couple who have been trying to have a child. Final, after he has resigned himself to no children, she becomes pregnant. Bertrand, instead of joy, wishes her to get an abortion which drives a wedge between them. So instead of a nice clean story about Sarah, we are annoyed by the petty insignificant spat of Julia and Bertrand.


Paquet-Brenner, seems to be shooting for something between "The French Lieutenant's Wife" and "Sophie's Choice". Ironically this was not his first film about people trapped in walls; his last film "Walled In" was a thriller about people walled in a building.


The performances by the young Melusine Mayance and the cast surrounding her are superb. Indeed if this had stayed with her story we would be talking post release awards.


"Sarah's Key" is an outstanding film that gets muddled by a mediocre film. It's one of the penalties of bouncing back and forth in time-lines if one of the time-lines sucks. Still, for those who don't know about the Paris Round-up, it is yet another reminder of the atrocities of humanity.   -- GEOFF BURTON