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Review: 'The Reader'

Based on a bestselling novel, story follows the emotional transformation of a young German when he sees his former lover in a war-crimes trial.

Kate Winslet (Hanna Schmitz) and David Kross (Michael) star in Stephen Daldry's The Reader.

Melinda Sue Gordon Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

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Bernhard Schlink's bestselling novel "The Reader" is about how the German generation born after the Holocaust coped with its legacy of guilt. The movie adaptation by screenwriter David Hare and director Stephen Daldry starts out choppy and overdrawn but develops a cumulative power. It's about a 15-year-old boy, Michael (David Kross), who in 1958 has a passionate affair with Hanna (an uneven Kate Winslet), a working-class woman 20 years his senior. Eight years later, while a law student observing the Nazi war crimes trials, Michael – played as an adult by Ralph Fiennes – is shocked to discover that Hanna, whom he had lost track of, is in the dock admitting her role as a guard at Auschwitz. The emotional core of "The Reader" is how Michael copes with this fact. His emotional transformation is not easily rendered on film but Fiennes knows how to do nuance. He brings to the role a shimmering subtlety. Grade: B (Rated R for some scenes of sexuality and nudity.)


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