The Book Thief Reviews
Given the focus on death, you'd expect the film to deal a lot with the pain of loss and the heartbreak of war. You'd be wrong. Losses do come and they do hurt people, but for the most part they're just passed over in silence. And most of them happen in one big (literal) burst at the end, leaving us with nothing to do but wrap up. And it's here that the painfully sympathetic Death really stands out like a sore thumb. Because when Death is such a friendly presence why are individual deaths tragic? It can probably be made to work, but it doesn't here.
In the end I felt nothing. And that's a real shame because the movie is blessed with some extremely strong performances. That's to be expected from Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson obviously, but the child actors are truly first rate as well. Particularly the lead girl and her close friend. They never felt stagey or out of step with the reality of the piece. The film had some wonderful production values too, really capturing the feel of everyday life in Nazi Germany.
I appreciated their avoidance of many of the cliches I've come to expect from such films. I waited till the very end for her friend in the Hitler Youth to sell her out, or consider selling her out, or even be conflicted about her obvious distaste for the Nazis, but it didn't happen. He actually joined in on her bandwagon. Unfortunately, in avoiding cliches it failed to provide any real substitute for the drama those cliches are there to produce. And as such, I left the film feeling empty and unsatisfied, for all that the cast and tone made me want to enjoy it.