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Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key

4.0 6
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup

Cast: Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup


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A tragic and shameful moment in French history continues to have consequences in the present day in this screen adaptation of the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is an American writer living in Paris with her husband, Bertrand (Frédéric Pierrot), an architect who


A tragic and shameful moment in French history continues to have consequences in the present day in this screen adaptation of the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is an American writer living in Paris with her husband, Bertrand (Frédéric Pierrot), an architect who is restoring a block of apartments in Paris owned by his family. Julia learns that Bertrand's family obtained the building through less than honorable means; the original owners were Jews who were forced to sell in the wake of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942, when the Nazi-affiliated Vichy government arrested over 13,000 Parisian Jews. One of the victims was Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance), a ten-year-old girl who tried to protect her younger brother by locking him in a cupboard in their apartment. Fearing for her brother's safety, Sarah escapes the crowded cycling stadium where the Jews are being held and tries to make her way back home. Julia learns of Sarah's story while doing research on the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, and her investigation teaches her a great deal about an event many in France are reluctant to discuss, as well as the links to Bertrand's family. Elle S'Appelait Sarah (aka Sarah's Key) was, along with La Rafle, one of two films concerning the Vel'd'Hiv Roundup released in France in 2010.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Most of the nations of Europe have some blood on their hands from World War II, but France's legacy in the war is especially complicated, wavering between heroism (the French resistance) and shameful complicity (the Vichy regime that ruled the nation in collaboration with the Nazis from 1940 to 1944). The dichotomy of France's history is especially pronounced when it comes to the movies. While most French films dealing with the war have tried to put a positive spin on what happened, there are a handful that offer a more realistic view of French life under occupation, most notably Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien and Marcel Ophüls' documentary The Sorrow and the Pity. Gilles Paquet-Brenner's drama Elle S'Appelait Sarah (aka Sarah's Key) joins the ranks of French films that look back honestly to the grim legacy of Vichy, offering a stark reminder of how many were willing to stand by and watch genocide happen, while also pondering how we are to come to terms with the tragedies of our collective past. Sarah's Key follows two parallel stories, separated by more than 50 years yet connected by the actions of a few characters. Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is an American journalist living in 21st century Paris with her husband, Bertrand (Frédéric Pierrot), and his daughter from a previous marriage. Julia is working on a magazine piece about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of 1942, in which the Vichy government used French police to gather together 13,000 Jews living in Paris, crammed them into a cycling stadium for several days without food, water, or toilets, and then shipped them off to concentration camps, where they would be executed. As Julia is researching the story, she discovers there's a connection between the roundup and her husband's family -- Bertrand's father first moved into the apartment building they own today after a Jewish family was forced out by the police. The story hits even closer to home for Julia as Bertrand has just renovated a flat in the same building, where he intends for them to live. Determined to know more, Julia begins tracking down the story of the family who used to live there, and in flashback we meet Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance), a nine-year-old girl who tried to hide her younger brother from the authorities by locking him in the closet when the police arrived to round up Jewish families. When she realizes that she and her folks are not going to be released soon, she becomes grimly determined to make her way back to Paris and save her brother before it's too late. As we follow Sarah's story, Julia learns the truth about her in-laws and their role in Sarah's fate, and at the same time, Julia is confronted with a serious crisis in her marriage. Kristin Scott Thomas has been living in France for some time and has been landing more satisfying roles in European films than those made in America, and Sarah's Key demonstrates that, at least creatively speaking, this has been good for her. There aren't many movies made in the United States lately that deal with a smart woman in her early fifties dealing with personal and professional challenges while looking beautiful but also clearly her own age, and that's just what Thomas gets to do in Sarah's Key. Though her New York accent is sometimes a bit off, Thomas otherwise never makes a wrong step, and her compassion, curiosity, and determination make Julia the ideal anchor for this story. While Julia provides the framework that holds the threads of the story together, ultimately this is Sarah's story, and Mélusine Mayance gives a fierce, committed performance that would be impressively intense for any actor, let alone one so young, and Charlotte Poutrel gives the same character a fascinating, enigmatic beauty as an adult. Niels Arestrup and Dominique Frot are very good as a farming couple who become Sarah's reluctant benefactors, and Aidan Quinn shines in a small role as Sarah's long-lost son. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner wrote the screenplay for Sarah's Key in collaboration with Serge Joncour, adapting the story from Tatiana de Rosnay's novel, and for the most part they do a splendid job of mixing and matching the two primary narrative threads, allowing Sarah's story to inform Julia's while each also stands on its own. The film's final act seems like an effort to add a third path that merges the two, and it's not nearly as effective; however, Paquet-Brenner's pacing remains fluid and he draws consistently fine work from his cast. He's also aided by a top-notch crew, particularly cinematographer Pascal Ridao and production designer Françoise Dupertuis, who help give the picture an uncluttered but realistic look. Sarah's Key takes a stark look at Vichy France and its legacy; there are rather few true heroes or thorough villains, as most characters are just struggling to make their way through a difficult and dangerous time, and often they are simply trying to save themselves when conscience occasionally forces them to step forward for others. In Sarah's Key, few people are truly innocent, but there's little to gain from ignoring the past, and a willingness to search out the truth proves to be rewarding for these characters as well as the audience watching them.

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kristin Scott Thomas Julia Jarmond
Mélusine Mayance Sarah
Niels Arestrup Jules Dufaure
Frédéric Pierrot Bertrand Tezac
Michel Duchaussoy Edouard Tezac
Dominique Frot Genevieve Dufaure
Natasha Mashkevich Mme. Starzynski
Gisele Casadesus Mamé
Aidan Quinn William Rainsferd
Sarah Ber Rachel
Arben Bajraktaraj M. Starzynski
Karina Hin Zoé
James Gerard Mike
Joseph Rezwin Joshua
Kate Moran Alexandra
Paul Mercier Michel
Alexandre LeProvost Policeman
Serpentine Teyssier Concierge
Simon Eine Franck Levy
Julie Fournier Vel d'Hiv Woman
Paige Barr Ornella Harris
Joanna Merlin Mme. Rainsferd
Georges Birt Richard Rainsferd
Vincianne Millereau Nathalie Dufaure
Sylviane Frava Bertrand's Mother
Dan Herzberg Red-Haired Policeman
Nancy Tate Alice
Frédérick Guillaud Young Richard Rainsferd
Maurice Lustyk Man Playing Violin
Charlotte Poutrel Adult Sarah
Maxim Driesen Young Edouard Tezac
Xavier Beja André Tezac
Jacqueline Noelle Old Lady
Jean-Pierre Hutinet Doctor
Jonathan Kerr Camp Police Officer
Matthias Kress German Officer on Farm
Franck Beckmann German Officer on Train
Nicolas Seconda Policeman 1 Vel d'Hiv
Francois D'Aubigny Policeman 2 Vel d'Hiv
Stéphane Charond Camp Officer 1
José Fumanal Camp Officer 2
Gilles Louzon Camp Officer 3
Pierre Nahori Policeman on Train
Sophie Bacry Picciotto Voice 1
Christian Vurpillat Voice 2
Rosa Herzberg Voice 3 Woman
Robert Rotsztein Voice 4 Man
Yasmine Ghazarian Camp Woman
Naeva Lissonnet Little Girl at Camp
Céline Caussimon Nurse Vel d'Hiv
Claudine Acs Hysterical Woman Vel d'Hiv
Viktoria Li Clinic Nurse
Loic Risser Nurse
Franck Chailly Stretcher-Bearer
Marco Florio Italian Waiter
Alice Erksine Café Mozart Waitress
Stephanie Gesnel Young Woman at the Window
Gérard Couchet Old Man at the Window
Mark Fairchild Bob Rainsferd
Melinda Wade Young American Woman
Kiley Liddell Baby Sarah
Brooke Liddell Baby Sarah

Technical Credits
Gilles Paquet-Brenner Director,Screenwriter
Mathilde Abraham Art Director
Lionel Closson Executive Producer
Olivier Coutard Asst. Director
Bob Deligne Art Director
Fabien Devillers Sound Mixer
Bill Donnelly Sound/Sound Designer
Françoise Dupertuis Production Designer
Sylvie Duval Makeup
Alexandre Fleurant Sound Editor
Serge Joncour Screenwriter
Frédéric Marquilly Sound Editor
Stephane Marsil Producer
Erika Munro Costumes/Costume Designer
Eric Perron Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Richter Score Composer
Pascal Ridao Cinematographer
Gill Robillard Makeup
Gaetan Rousseau Executive Producer
Herve Schneid Editor
Bruno Seznec Sound/Sound Designer
Antoine Theron Production Manager
Louis Zuppardi Production Manager


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Sarah's Key 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
MoviePres More than 1 year ago
Having not read the novel, I watched this film during its festival circuit earlier this year and was absolutely awestruck. The scenes of the '40s are just breathtaking visually, not to mention the emotional charge they hold. The only issue I had was with the ending, which seemed ill thought-out and possibly put together with duct tape at the last moment. Did nothing to overshadow this moving adaptation. I will be purchasing it immediately upon it's distribution.
EraCG More than 1 year ago
Sarah' s key is a good movie. Good acting.
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