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The Reader movie poster

The Reader

Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated: R
Directed by:
Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross

Released by: The Weinstein Company

In Short: Intense emotion fills this finely acted, disturbing and compelling post-World War II story set in Germany.

Confronting the Past
Lust, Love and Retribution in the Aftermath of War

The Reader is not a movie for the faint of heart. Intensely sexual, intellectually rigorous, and emotionally wrenching, Stephen Daldry's (Billy Elliot, The Hours) film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Bernhard Schlink is a continuously compelling exploration of lust, forbidden love, and retribution for past actions.

Set in 1950's post-World War II Germany, The Reader begins with the chance encounter of a streetcar tolltaker named Hanna with a teenager named Michael, who falls ill on the street in front of her home. The two, played bravely and masterfully by Kate Winslet and German newcomer David Kross, begin a torrid love affair, despite her being 30 to his 15.

Part of their romance involves his reading books to her, and it is this theme—the love of books and reading—that infuses the rest of the disturbing story. For Michael, Hanna is his first true love, and when she suddenly packs up and disappears, it changes him forever.

Kate Winslet and David Kross in The Reader Ralph Fiennes in The Reader

As life goes on, Michael becomes a lawyer, and in the midst of his law school training, encounters her again as one of the defendants of a criminal trial. As the trial unfolds, truths about her come into focus, and decisions are made that irrevocably change both of their lives.

The Reader is framed with the older Michael remembering the story. As played by Ralph Fiennes, he is a man who never really recovered from that first intense love. It is a story of love and loss, of mistakes made and consequences suffered, and is a film that will resonate in your mind long after it comes to its emotional conclusion. It is no wonder that the film has already garnered numerous nominations and awards—including four Golden Globes nods—for it is truly worthy of many accolades.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters


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