I didn't know much about "A Book Thief" except from a few previews.
Saturday afternoon showing at the Mall had the theatre a good 50/60% full with a very mixed crowd of 50-70 year olds with families and kids. Later I learned as a book, this was quite an international best seller.
Straight up, "A Book Thief" is a remarkably beautiful, powerful and well done film. Almost an epic in ways but not quite. Thrilled that I went to see it and it was very, very special.
At the end of the day, it's a rather simple story set in war torn Germany in the early 40s where Hitler's reign and presence is everywhere from schools to church and home.
Story follows a poor German family that is loyal to the country but did not drink the Nazi party Kool Aid. Simply living day to day in a very austere existence with war and Nazi influence and power everywhere. The unquestionable star Liesel "Sophie Nelisse" comes to live with a foster family (Emily Watson & Geoffrey Rush) when she is about 11.
Her younger brother dies en route to their new home. It was at his burial, she comes into her first book which sets a course for the brilliance and power of words, education and some fantasy that shapes her life.
New Mom (played by the legendary Ms. Watson) is tough as nails and plays the quintessential hard German woman (we latter learn that this steely resolve masks a kind and loving Mother). New Dad (even more legendary Mr. Rush) rush plays the lovable, fun and not very successful father figure. The former clearly wears the pants and runs the household. In their own way, they are a very close couple.
The film shows non party member Germans walking on pins and needles every moment of every day. And when the Allied forces starting to attack, even more so.
Halfway into the film, Rush takes into their home a jewish son of a friend who he owed a life long favor to from WW1. Max is very sick from his plight from the Nazi's and his being hidden in cold, dirty and wet basement only makes his health worse. Yet during his times of lucidness, Liesel learns he too is a book lover and soon they become as close as the closest of brothers and sisters.
The casting of this movie is exquisite and is near perfect. Leisel is near angelic in appearance with golden hair, huge eyes and doll-like skin. This combined with her innocence, kindness and love of family dominates this film. Watson and Rush play very opposite yet very likable parents in an extremely difficult time.
Plus Rush's huge head, bulbous nose and flying hair presents quite a different picture from his daughter and hence matches beautifully.
Folks, this is a film, not a movie. It is extremely special and so pleased that I got to see on a big screen. A very powerful ending with a hint that this could be based on a true story. The story was narrated by "Death" which didn't seem to make or break the movie to me.
Will be most interesting to see the of nominations and awards this special film and its actors receive. I suspect a lot.