The Reader - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Reader Reviews

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March 26, 2016
The Reader is a multi-layered period drama split into three distinct sections with the first following a graphic love affair between a 15 year-old boy and an adult female, the second section focusing on the slightly older boy studying law and taking part in a court case that the woman is being tried in and the third portion centers on the now grown-up boy reminiscing about their time together while she serves a life sentence for Nazi war crimes. Based on the German novel of the same name, the film is an extremely faithful adaptation of the book, to the point where I actually wish I had read the book instead because the story isn't exactly cinematic. What I mean by that is it's a very engaging story, but it's told in a very direct way and with my knowledge of film structure, I was able to predict all of the major beats in the film and the big revelation, that I otherwise may not have picked up as quickly while reading. The film is marvelously acted by Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz who harbors a humiliating secret and she plays the character with a sad, innocence well-deserving of her oscar win. David Kross was also great as the young man seduced into a life-changing experience that will forever alter his future and Ralph Fiennes also does exceptional work as the older version of him. The first section of the film is quite explicit and it's a bit uncomfortable watching a 15 year-old (the actor was actually 18) engage in so many sex scenes with a grown woman, thus I can only recommend this film for mature audiences. This is a deeply emotional film with terrific performances and excellent direction, but I do feel the book would be a more rewarding experience as I was able to predict most of the film.
½ February 28, 2016
The Reader is a simply told story of one young man's coming of age love affair with a mysterious and guarded older woman sharply reflecting the conflicts between Germany's war and post-war generations.

A testament to the talent of late producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, their ability to reach into situations and embrace issues that confront society have produced some of cinemas greatest moments is a treasured legacy.

This adaption of Bernhard Schlink's controversial 1995 novel Der Vorleser (The Reader) by screenwriter David Hare and director Stephen Daldry is poignant, timeless and moving.

Approaching one of the century's most genuinely disturbing issues, The Reader finds a balance between the need for post-Nazi war crime justice and coming of age romantic eroticism.

The Reader opens in 1995 Berlin, introducing an aloof and emotionally numbed attorney Michael (Ralph Fiennes); swiftly we are transported back to 1958, where Michael's younger self (played exceptionally well by David Kross) is on his way home from school and is stricken down with what later turns out to be scarlet fever.

Happening upon Michael vomiting in her apartment entrance, Tram ticket handler Hanna Schmitz (Oscar winner Kate Winslet) with a gruff and unapproachable manor, first scrubs the area clean then assists Michael in returning home in that order.

After months of isolated recuperation, Michael returns to show his appreciation for Hanna's assistance. However, Michael's visiting intentions are more than to show his modest appreciation, his sexual desires and intentions are obvious when he purposefully makes a mess of himself creating a need to be naked and bathe.

Hanna playing the game and supposedly not wanting to send him home dirty draws him a bath. Using her sexual directness Hanna kindly relives the naive Michael of his virginity and sets the tone of their summer long relationship.

Dictating their bedroom rituals with her distantness and military style orders, before Michael (or as he is affectionately nicknamed, Kid) can have Hanna intimately he must read to her from his school books including the likes of Twain, Homer and Chekhov.

One day shortly after Michael's sixteenth birthday, he comes to visit as usual only to find Hanna has gone. No note, no reason, never to be heard from again.

Eight years later, Michael attends a war-crime trail as a law student in Heidelberg. From the balcony of the court room Michael is started when he hears Hanna's voice from the defendant's bench. As one of half a dozen who committed a particularly atrocious mass murder, described in the bestselling memoir of a Holocaust survivor, Hanna was an SS camp guard at Auschwitz.

Michael endures the trail, becoming increasingly shaken by the evidence that his first love is, by any standard, a monster. Accused as the mastermind behind a mass murder of over 300 Nazi prisoners, Hanna is coerced into admitting full guilt.

How does one deal with a lover who is a monster? One can only condemn her; but in that condemnation, where lies the process of understanding? Holding the key to her salvation through his personal knowledge of Hanna can Michael grant atonement?

Winslet with her classical Hollywood grace delivers a typically intelligent performance. Bring deep shades of light and dark whilst remaining emersed in the shadows of a war ravished and morally destroyed soul.
Kross delivers a gutsy and intense performance, complimented by Fiennes' emotionally and morally tormented older portrayal there is a strong continuity of character.

The Reader's light and humanising approach to its second halves distressing topic of Auschwitz torment does not linger. Commonly, films based on this instant rely on shock scenes and vulgarity, in The Reader there is none; there is only one single artful flash back that brings understanding not pain.

The film does have flaws and was rightfully passed over not receiving the best picture nod. The over done early intimacy scenes although tastefully done is a heavy and clumpy, and the lack of grasp on a solid timeline is jumpy and disjointed.

The Verdict: It is easy to knock films for their flaws, but to sit through one and be taken from a young joyful romance into a harrowing case for justice and feeling the extremes of compassion and condemnation for the same character is rare.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 27/02/2009
February 7, 2016
Fiennes..in a war torn romance..have to say..looks good
February 3, 2016
The Reader may have its flaws, but Kate Winslet´s mesmerizing multi layered performance elevates this thought provoking historical drama.
January 17, 2016
as hugh jackman would say...I didnt see the reader.
January 17, 2016
My opinion of Kate Winslet has changed for the better since she took a few more less flattering roles; this type of role suits her a lot better than some period drama, thanks to Keira Knightly for unburdening her of this curse. This is a very good film, great story, and good performances all round.
January 11, 2016
La plus grande qualité du film de Daldry est d'être intensément émouvant et touchant. Le jeu des acteurs est aussi très crédible et aide sans doute à rendre les émotions... Un film à la fois triste et beau. Moment intense.
January 10, 2016
A fairly weak film, though one powered by exceptional acting from Kate Winslet and David Kross. The Reader suffers from poor direction and a confused narrative and strikes me as the type of script that Kate Winslet had to overcome to win her Oscar, rather than be helped by it.
December 20, 2015
Book club read the book a while back and we even watched the movie - which I was worried about. I've heard such mixed reviews on the movie, so this caused me to be concerned, because I really liked the book.

The cast was decent. I do like Kate Winslet, but I wasn't a fan of her as Hanna. The German accent horrid at the beginning. It seemed to get better or I become accustomed to her over-the-top German accent. Also, I feel they should've gotten a different lady to play super old Hanna, because the makeup was horrid. She only was supposed to be 20 years older, but she looked WAY WAY older then she was supposed to be. Everyone else did well. The boy who played Michael did wonderful job and he was pretty close to what I imagined.

They stuck pretty close to the book - few liberties were taken and I must applaud that.

My other big complaint with the film was the lack of feeling. It didn't hold the same feeling as the book. It's really hard to explain, but I watched with minimum interest. I try not to judge the film off the book, but I couldn't help it with this one. Maybe it didn't help that I was surrounded by others who felt the same, so we tended to get distracted and not pay attention to the movie.

Overall, this was barely decent. The book was WAY better than the film. If you want to watch this movie, I encourage reading the book first. The role of Hanna was not portrayed with the right actress, make-up was horrid, and it lacked the same feeling as the book. It was better than I expected, but barely. Out of five stars, I stamp this with 2.


Re-watch?: Perhaps.
December 20, 2015
In 1995, a German man reminisces about a relationship he had, as a
teenager, in 1958 with an older woman. He also remembers what happened
subsequent to that, including her standing trial for war crimes
committed during World War 2, and the secret which denied her justice...

Excellent movie. Searingly emotional with an original, intriguing and
thought-provoking plot.

Direction is spot-on. Pacing is perfect.

Kate Winslet is mind-bogglingly brilliant in the lead role and well
deserved her Best Leading Actress Oscar.

Ralph Fiennes puts in his usual solid performance. The revelation
though is David Kross, who brings a maturity beyond his years.

A must-see movie, and an instant classic.
December 10, 2015
The different conflicts and moral debate were on my mind long after the credits rolled. Great perfomances by Winslet and Kross. It did take me a while to get into the film's atmosphere, mainly due to a sloppy and uninteresting openingscene.
November 25, 2015
I don't really have much respect for Hanna's character; wearing the robe of justice requires you to give it for all, not just for yourself, other people have been part of the crime, by submitting herself as the 'Leader' she just handed all other criminals the luxury of freedom, people who were morally worse than her were set free just so she could satisfy her desire to punish herself.
The performance is great and the dialogue is straight forward.
½ November 14, 2015
At first it doesn't impress me much until the court room scene, for which I know what is actually going on. I love the cassette scene most. It is really touching. Then it starts to remind me of The Shawshank Redemption. Kate Winslet is great here, as well as her makeup. Yet, I still don't know if I should like the massive sex scenes at the beginning.
November 8, 2015
Really good! The end was a little soft and it shows when you have a mental illness or not very well educated that you can really miss represented and miss judged- sometimes to the extreme. It gets you thinking!
October 24, 2015
Easily, one of my top 10 favorite of all time.
Robert B.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2015
The Reader is of interest mainly due to some good, quality shooting and a story where it is difficult to decide what to think of the characters; life isn't simple. Despite the awards and nominations, the acting is not spectacular nor is the film as a whole. Still, it is worth a look.
October 3, 2015
This movie would definitely not be able to be played on TV... unless the entire first half of the movie is cut out.
October 3, 2015
In love with Kate :-s
½ August 16, 2015
A historical drama carried only by Winslet's stellar performance. Moving away from the traditional Holocaust movie portraying everything as black or white. The cheesiness of the story can still be moving at times, making it a good lazy Sunday night rental.
½ August 15, 2015
A heart melting story of a illiterate and innocent woman...
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