The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

2008

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

Critics Consensus

A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist.

63%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 137

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 114,383
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Movie Info

Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, and Asa Butterfield star in Little Voice writer/director Mark Herman's adaptation of John Boyne's novel concerning the forbidden friendship that between an eight-year-old German boy and a Jewish concentration camp prisoner in World War II-era Germany. The innocent son of a high-ranking Nazi commandant, Bruno has been largely shielded from the harsh realities of the war. When Bruno discovers that his father has been promoted and that their family will be moving from Berlin into the countryside, he doesn't take the news well. Increasingly bored in his sprawling yet dreary country abode and forbidden by his mother from exploring the backyard, young Bruno searches for something to do while his older sister plays with dolls and vies for the attention of handsome Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend). One day, bored and gazing out his bedroom window, Bruno spies what first appears to be a nearby farm; his parents refuse to discuss it, and all of the inhabitants there are curiously clad in striped pajamas. But while Bruno's mother naïvely believes the "farm" to be an internment camp, her husband has sworn under oath never to reveal that it is in fact an extermination camp specifically designed to help the Nazis achieve their horrific "Final Solution." Eventually defying his mother's rules and venturing out beyond the backyard, Bruno arrives at a barbed wire fence to find a young boy just his age emptying rubble from a wheel barrel. Like Pavel, the kitchen worker who cooks all of Bruno's meals, the young boy is wearing striped pajamas. His name is Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), and before long the two young boys become fast friends. But the closer these two boys grow, the more Bruno becomes awakened to the horrors unfolding all around them. His mother is catching on quickly as well, a fact that causes great tension in her marriage to Bruno's father. Later, after Bruno swipes a piece of cake for Shmuel, Lt. Kotler accuses the Jewish boy of stealing and delivers a swift punishment. When Bruno's father announces that the young boy and his mother will be going to live with their aunt in Heidelberg, Bruno grabs a shovel and makes his way to the camp, setting into motion a tragic and devastating sequence of events. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

All Critics (137) | Top Critics (37)

  • [Director] Mark Herman knows how to milk the melodrama from every scene, but viewers may feel a little icky about the experience.

    Nov 17, 2011 | Rating: 3/5

    Hank Sartin

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The result isn't a deep film, but rather a profound one.

    May 13, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • We are left in no doubt about the brutality of what's going on there but it's almost entirely off-screen. Still, the film is terribly confronting.

    May 1, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • In truth, the film is sure to stop the hearts of many who see it. There may indeed be hope in hell, but better to avoid hell altogether.

    Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Because its gaze is so level and so unyielding, it stands as one of the better dramatic films made on this subject (although it's not nearly as fine as Louis Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants, in which the camps remain a distant abstraction).

    Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • Although it's told from the perspective of a child, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is as shattering as any film about the Holocaust could be, perhaps more so.

    Nov 13, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

  • Feb 28, 2013
    The negative criticism of this film seems to be because a) for a children's film the denouement is far too horrific and b) the film trivialises the holocaust. This film is, obviously, not a documentary, or a thorough look at the holocaust, or an exhaustive epic. Instead, it is a powerful, beautifully acted film largely seen from the point of view of an eight year old trying to make sense of something that doesn't, given conflicted information, or shielded, or subjected to dangerous propaganda, or denied voice (the mother is a particularly fascinating character, acted with quiet anger by Vera Farmiga). The ending is undeniably powerful but to say that it is "too much" is a condescending viewpoint of children and what they understand (which paradoxically ties into the film's very theme). Taken as what it is - which in no way is a criticism - this film is practically a masterpiece.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2013
    Popularity of a Labrador, bravado of a Bulldog, confused as a Cockerpoo and Totally Shih-Tzu. This WWII drama follows Bruno and his German family from their family home in Berlin to their new house following his Father's promotion. His Father is presumably an SS Officer and he is to become the new Governor of a concentration camp (loosely based on Auschwitz). The new home is next to the camp and the audience watch as Bruno slowly finds out more and more about the situation as the wool can no longer be pulled over his eyes. It is very much a movie about viewing the holocaust through the eyes of a child. When he views the camp for the first time through his bedroom window (having been shielded from the truth by his parents) he thinks he can see farmers tendering the land in their nightwear. I am very interested in anything related to the Second World War. I really wanted to like this film, but I can't; 'cos it's crap. Many people who have seen the film find it shocking. I must admit that I did too. We see the Swastika's flying on the red Nazi flags, the German troops and are aware we are in the German capital in the 1940's. The first man opens his mouth to speak and out flows the English language. I found this shocking, but was intrigued to see how this would work. As the film continued my irritation was building to a crescendo. It's not like Schindler's List where, everyone speaks with various accents, but speak English as it's an American Movie. The Nazis speak with the thickest of English accents, as do the Jews, the children and the rest of the world presumably. It really is the clearest "Queens English", I can just image one of the SS officers turning to the other and saying; "Pardon me old boy, would you mind awfully if we stopped for a spot of afternoon tea before we stroll over the road and bump 'orf a couple of dozen gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion?" Image a new movie is coming out called "Churchill", which is made by Germans but set in England. Imagine that we're in the height of WW2 and the family gather around the wireless to hear our Prime Minister speak. We hear him deliver his most famous of speeches - "We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender". Now image that its delivered in the thickest German you've ever heard! Personally I find this aspect of the film insulting. As a Brit and for the Germans. It's not a subtle thing, its very "in your face" and clearly done on purpose. It doesn't stop at the language either. Everything about this movie wreaks of English culture. I did consider whether it was portrayed like this so the audience would relate more or perhaps to bridge a cultural separation. But for whatever reason, it doesn't work and was a poor choice. Especially in the scene where they view the film that has been made to eradicate peoples doubts in the camp - that its more of a holiday camp than a death camp. Moving on; everything from the acting, to the music, to the wardrobe is inaccurate, weak and feels like a cheap amateur production. The story is supposed to be a tragedy, but I couldn't get into the film enough to feel anything. It's just too unbelievable. I can't believe that some of the actors were selected for their roles. I just can't understand why. Maybe they were the only ones to turn up on the day? Jack Scanlon (Shmuel) is particularly bad. As far as acting goes, I feel Henry Kingsmill (who played Karl) was the best by a long way. More convincing than anyone else on screen throughout. For me, the movie is all mixed up, back to front and round the wrong way. Jewish characters played by clearly non-Jewish actors, the movie is all in English but the literature is in German, the German child is brunette and the Jewish child is blonde and most notably 6,000,000 Jews were murdered in the holocaust yet this is a tragic story of 1 Nazi child who was killed alongside. If you swap the Nazi's, the Jew's and the concentration camp for Al Qaeda, American citizens and the Twin Towers America would boycott the movie and label it as seriously poor taste. On a positive note, I felt that certain scenes seemed metaphorical. Which I found quite insightful. Such as when Bruno (Asa Butterfield - one of the better actors in the movie) lies about being friends with Shmuel out of fear. As maybe many Germans did at the time. I found the scene where his Father is deciding to "come clean" and tells his son; "Those people ... are not really people at all" quite a good reflection on how Germany saw Jews, as parasites. I would have liked to see that scene go on a little longer. Perhaps to answer some of the questions Bruno may have asked. I found it a clever idea that Bruno asked questions and in the lack of response the viewer seems to answer them in their own mind. This way it becomes very personal. It would have been very powerful, if it wasn't so transparent. In short The Boy in Striped Pajamas strives to be a sentimental, heartfelt, shocking tale of discovery. But is ultimately an unbelievable, naive, clearly fictional story that is only shocking to those previously unaware of the situation. It loses marks for being unconvincing, making poor choices in direction, being weak throughout and personally found it insulting to me and the darkest hour of World War II.
    James C Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2012
    Moving film about those in concentration camps in WWII. Good performances.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Jun 17, 2012
    An oversimplification of the Holocaust, yes, as a very young German boy during WWll accidentally discovers exactly what his camp commandant dad does for a living, but to be forgiven its chosen naive viewpoint in respect to its chosen naive audience: a perfect film for schools.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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