Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare
Starring: Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, & Lena Olin.
When I finished watching The Reader, I was exhausted. It’s an emotionally draining experience. Take that as you will. Daldry and Hare have crafted not much of an emotional roller coaster as much as a carefully executed moral minefield – peppered with enough sex (and sexual tension) to last you a lifetime.
While it seems the film’s off-screen stories (Rudin vs Weinstein, rushed post-production, allegedly knocking The Dark Knight from its Best Picture and Best Director noms at the Oscars, being now deemed ‘That Holocaust Movie’…) I think Daldry’s is a wonder of a film, albeit one that seems to be poised to divide its audience, much in the same way it does so for its characters. The film centers around a taboo romance between an older woman and a fifteen year old that, while lasting only one summer, changes both their lives forever.
It’s also a thinking person’s film. Those wishing to get any emotional schmaltz out of this sex/guilt ridden story will not be rewarded. Daldry and Hare craft more questions than answers, more conundrums than emotional payoffs and the way to understand this is to explore Winslet’s unflinching performance of Hannah. She doesn’t go for sympathy, and her ice-cold performance is at once puzzling but altogether appropriate in that really the film is constructed around wanting to know what/why Hannah is doing but you have to give props to a film that doesn’t cheat itself out for a teary sappy ending. A-