The Reader


The Reader

Critics Consensus

Despite Kate Winslet's superb portrayal, The Reader suggests an emotionally distant, Oscar-baiting historical drama.



Reviews Counted: 198

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Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

When he falls ill on his way home from school, 15 year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. The two begin an unexpected and passionate affair only for Hanna to suddenly and inexplicably disappear. Eight years later, Michael, now a young law student observing Nazi war trials, meets his former lover again, under very different circumstances. Hanna is on trial for a hideous crime, and as she refuses to defend herself, Michael gradually realizes his boyhood love may be guarding a secret she considers to be more shameful than murder.

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Kate Winslet
as Hanna Schmitz
Ralph Fiennes
as Michael Berg
David Kross
as Young Michael Berg
Lena Olin
as Rose Mather / Ilana Mather
Bruno Ganz
as Prof. Rohl
Matthias Habich
as Peter Berg
Susanne Lothar
as Carla Berg
Alexandra Maria Lara
as Young Ilana Mather
Jeanette Hain
as Brigitte
Friederike Becht
as Angela Berg
Alissa Wilms
as Emily Berg
Marie Anne Fliegel
as Hanna's neighbor
Jürgen Tarrach
as Gerhard Bade
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News & Interviews for The Reader

Critic Reviews for The Reader

All Critics (198) | Top Critics (47)

Stephen Daldry's film is sensitively realized and dramatically absorbing, but comes across as an essentially cerebral experience without gut impact.

Jul 6, 2010
Top Critic

If Winslet carries the complex psychological intrigue of the film on her shoulders, David Kross carries the heart of it on his.

Apr 8, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Daldry and Hare replicate adroitly the moral balancing act that makes the book so fascinating...

Feb 20, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The film...hankers after something redemptive. But whatever difficult possibilities about guilt and silence it explores are dissolved into disconcerting blandness.

Feb 20, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

An airless vacuum labeled Serious Film

Jan 8, 2009 | Rating: C | Full Review…

Its issues are infinite and moveable. It's a bold and challenging work.

Jan 5, 2009 | Rating: 4/6 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Reader

There is a straight forward narrative process throughout this intelligent and engaging piece about the aftermath of the Holocaust, but the undercurrent, about how we ruin love by our incomprehensible desire to tell it what we want it to be, is a symphony of waste and regret for which we want to deny responsibility. Winslet got an Oscar for her intelligent portrayal of a simple girl.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


"The Reader" is a response to post-Nazi Germany, and the ways in which people reconcile the past with their present. Even more disturbing is how the film, and the novel from which this is adapted, present the idea that the Nazis were people, with the same needs and morals as present day Germans. This idea is presented through the relationship between a teenager (Kross, Fiennes) and a train conductor (Winslet). The film doesn't argue that these inhuman actions are palatable once we understand the motivations of those who committed them, only that they really were people, not exactly misled in their decision making, but part of a movement that didn't have room for choice. I have read some critic's opinions that state that the film tries to purport that illiteracy, or even ignorance, is an excuse for evil. You can argue this point when looking at our lead character's struggle with this issue, but it's as easily assertible that this serves as a plot device to explain Michael Berg's guilt over the situation. This is not a love story, it's a story about compassion and how we look at the perpetrators of history. It's not only an interesting thought experiment, but a heartbreaking indictment of the callousness of humanity, and how we handle atrocities as a society.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


when one gets past the opportunist and pointless 30 minute long soft core porn sequence at the start of the film, the story picks up greatly and becomes slightly engaging. the problem was that this sort of film has a chance to truly inspire and only being slightly engaging isnt really good enough. its a good film without doubt, with solid acting and an interesting story line, but this film faces harsher judgement because of its acclaim and it doesnt hold up. easily the least deserving oscar nom of 2008, it is also not winslets best performance of this year as she was more involved in revolutionary road. she was still very good as she always is, but despite the fact that i really enjoyed this film i was disappointed following its press.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer


A teenage boy has an illicit affair with an older woman in post war Berlin and years later finds her on trial as an Auschwitz prison guard. The Reader is a very worthy examination of German post war guilt and the resulting gulf between the following generations which no doubt resulted in the creation of the Baader-Meinhof gang. The most interesting part of the film is actually the moral debate between the law students and their tutor and it does make some interesting points about the consequences of culpability through inaction, but the structure of the film as seen through the eyes of an infatuated young boy and his older, wiser self doesn't really work. It has that kind of sterile tastefulness that "Oscar nominated" films always have and it completely lacked any emotional involvement with the characters. The performances are all strong, but I couldn't help the feeling that nearly every member of the cast were either too young or too old for their parts and it did not help that David Kross bears absolutely no resemblance to Ralph Fiennes whatsoever, which combines with a rather implausible plot development on which the entire story hinges to make the whole thing rather unconvincing. Kudos to Kate Winslet for her measured and thoughtful performance, but otherwise The Reader left me rather cold.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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