Combining an intriguing mystery with a moving historical account of a forgotten chapter from World War II, Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s Sarah’s Key is an ambitious emotional epic that succeeds in nearly all it attempts. Shifting back and forth between scenes of wartime atrocities and a modern woman’s dogged pursuit to uncover the fate of one Jewish girl, the film slowly builds towards an unexpectedly powerful and haunting climax.
Working for a progressive British magazine, reporter Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott-Thomas) proposes that she write an article about the infamous Vel’ d’Hiv incident of 1942 in which French officials rounded up over 10,000 Jews for deportation to Nazi concentration camps. While researching the incident, she uncovers the case of a young girl named Sarah (Melusine Mayance), whose fate remains unknown. She sets out to discover what happened to her and ultimately finds that the girl’s history continues to resonate, ironically impacting her own family.
As adapted from Tatiana De Rosnay’s novel, the film tackles the book’s complex narrative head-on. Paquet-Brenner does a masterful job of presenting the movie’s two storylines with clarity, steadily building each towards a devastating and cathartic emotional climax. To be sure, the coincidences employed here could be seen as far too convenient yet the film’s payoff outweighs these concerns. More than anything, Sarah’s Key reminds us that the actions of the past continue to echo years after they occur and have the power to teach valuable life lessons for those wise enough to be open to them.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.