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Overall Rating
3.4

Awesome: 18%
Worth A Look30%
Average30%
Pretty Bad: 18%
Total Crap: 4%

4 reviews, 26 user ratings


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Reader, The
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by brianorndorf

"Wonderful waves of misery (and nudity)"
4 stars

Guilt is what drives “The Reader” to unsettling highs and low of conduct. It’s the essence behind Stephen Daldry’s latest film, his first since 2002’s “The Hours,” and a picture that isn’t easy to deconstruct at first glance. Daldry works the senses and emotions to build a striking sexually charged drama, taking specific interest in the interior of the characters and what compels them to swallow the anguish they obviously desire to expel.

In 1958, 15-year-old Michael (David Kross) is comforted by stranger Hanna (Kate Winslet) when he falls ill in the street. Months later, when returning to Hanna to thank her for her kindness, Michael finds himself attracted to the distant, older woman, and the two begin an affair defined by its passion and Hanna’s insistence that Michael read stories of all genres to her before lovemaking. When the relationship ends abruptly, Michael goes off to law school, finding himself eight years later at a Nazi war crimes trial where Hanna is one of the defendants. Racked with guilt, yet paralyzed to interfere, Michael’s life is again consumed by Hanna, extending into an adulthood (now played by Ralph Fiennes) marked by relentless regret and shame.

Adapted from the novel by Bernhard Schlink, “Reader” sticks close to its literary roots, as Daldry shows patience with his actors and the source material to best extract the precise measured waves of discontent out of the screenplay. “Reader” is methodical, often at the expense of its own pace, but it’s the rare film to get under the skin and explore unsettling themes of accountability and illicit desire, sneaking up on emotions instead of pouring on melodrama by the gallon.

Credit for the restraint lies with Daldry, who avoids most of the traditional button-pushing maneuvering this type of awards-baiting drama typically receives. It’s a harshly observational directorial job, following Michael as his life is distorted by Hanna’s inadvertent psychological invasion, showing the boy introduced to sex and disillusionment during his time with the aloof woman. For the first act, “Reader” is an especially provocative picture, rarely dodging the sexuality that binds the characters together. The effort opens sensuality and vulnerability to the feature in a blunt manner that’s difficult to watch, yet impossible to ignore. Winslet and Kross commit wholeheartedly to their roles, which require substantial nudity and piercing communication of self without the crutch of words. It’s sharp work from the actors, who play into Daldry’s slow-burn design of lustful sorrow magnificently.

The film’s second act takes matters to the courtroom, and while remaining emotionally and historically charged, the intimacy evaporates while matters of darkness roll into view. Hanna’s trial and Michael’s gut-wrenching war of ethics assume center stage, yet the entire movement of this act is hinged on a mammoth personal revelation easily telegraphed by the audience in the first few moments of the film. “Reader” recovers nicely in the final movement, where an adult Michael (played with rich streams of remorse by Fiennes) seizes an opportunity to reconnect with Hanna, though he remains an offering from a distance. Daldry mines a strong response here from David Hare’s screenplay, finding unique communication habits and glimmers of optimism within miles of depression.

“The Reader” is a strong piece of drama that doesn’t pander. It exists in a bubble of misery, though a handsome one with eye-catching locations and moody cinematography to accentuate the trauma. The hypnotic effect may break off now and then, but there remains an unsettling depiction of mournful obsession left behind that satisfies the soul.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17060&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/13/08 07:09:42
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User Comments

12/29/11 dan Started watching en route, didn´t know Winslet was Winslet, so excellent performance. 4 stars
4/13/11 Evie I don't understand why he didn't tell her he would set her up in an apt.& take care of her. 4 stars
4/14/10 daveyt I can see why some might not rate it, I do however, so there! 4 stars
3/31/10 IndyFan You're missing it. 5 stars
3/04/10 jackie i still can't get over not just admitting she can't read instead of life in prison. 4 stars
9/22/09 A Burke Statutory rape! Why the suicide? Oscar bait 2 stars
9/11/09 BTC Newcomer Kross shows remarkable range, and Winslet re-proves that she's the next Streep. 4 stars
7/29/09 MP Bartley Powerhouse performance from Winslet barely elevates it above movie of the week stuff. 3 stars
7/09/09 jason Winslet teaching Kross how to make love is awesome 5 stars
6/28/09 gandalf terrible slow ass film, another holocaust oscar bait film 1 stars
6/22/09 jana I didnt care for it all the things critics have said it was to evoke i saw none of it 2 stars
6/12/09 tung ton winslet deserved oscar; first nazi child molester pic with heart 5 stars
5/17/09 Danny Nice performance from Winslet. Movie just a tiny notch above average. 3 stars
5/14/09 Colin M I thought Winslet's performance would be better than the actual movie but both were amazing 5 stars
4/21/09 malcolm moving and maddening at the same time 5 stars
4/04/09 Meep A lesser film than it wants to be 3 stars
3/18/09 jim kate's always great to watch; decent melodrama 4 stars
2/21/09 R.W. Welch Neatly plotted, tho old Mike and young Mike don't look at all alike. 4 stars
2/17/09 Smitty A quite original love story displaying human frailty at it's worst. 5 stars
2/03/09 Piz unecessarily gratuitous at times but touching and well-developing. 4 stars
1/29/09 Sean Stangland She'd rather take the heat for 300 murders than admit she can't read?!? What a strange film 2 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Touching and surprisingly poignant film.Probably the best in a long time! 5 stars
1/08/09 PAUL SHORTT SOFT-CORE PORN IS NOT A FITTING ENTRY POINT FOR CONSIDERING THE HOLOCAUST'S AGONIES 1 stars
1/04/09 henry Lunde very moving and heartrending I loved it 5 stars
12/27/08 Tom David Kross gave an honest & remarkable performance. 5 stars
12/15/08 Doreen liked it alot 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Dec-2008 (R)
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Dec-2008
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009




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