Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Reader

The UK movie release schedule for January is promising. Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire comes out on Friday; the week after is The Wrestler, already bearing a ton of excellent reviews; and at the end of the month there's Frost/Nixon, which I have my doubts about - it's directed by the workmanlike Ron Howard - but sounds worth a look.

And this week... there's Frank Miller's version of The Spirit, which did so well in America that they haven't even screened it for critics in the UK. Yikes.

So instead we went to the Filmhouse to see Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes in The Reader, an adaptation of the Bernard Schlink novel. By the way, if you click on that link, you'll get the trailer, which gives away the end of act one. Quite honestly, it's a much better film if you go in not knowing where it's headed, so I'd encourage you just to go and see it.

It's also, unfortunately, virtually impossible to talk about the film without giving away that plot twist, since it's absolutely central to the premise, and to the argument of the film. Basically, the film starts off as a "teenage boy has affair with mysterious older woman" story, only to veer off in a different direction once we learn more about Hanna.

The film has had very mixed reviews - Metacritic lists critics all over the scale from 100 down to 10. Personally, I thought it was a great piece of work. It's true enough that the film is more cerebral than emotional, particularly in the middle stretch - but that alienation and distancing is precisely the point. And some may feel that the film is attempting to introduce moral complexities where none exist, though I'd disagree (particularly if you take the story metaphorically). Robert Ebert's review addresses that point very well (revealing the plot in the process, admittedly).

Worth seeing, if it's showing near you.