Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot
“Sarah’s Key,” based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, is set during the 1942 Vel d’Hiv roundup in France during which French police deported hundreds of Jews to concentration camps.
When 10-year-old Sarah is forced out of her apartment, she hides her little brother in a locked closet, innocently believing she would be back to release him in no time. As her family gets shepherded from one awful holding pen to another, though, she becomes set on escaping to rescue her brother.
Concurrent with Sarah’s journey is a present-day story about Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas), an investigative journalist who discovers that her apartment once belonged to deported Jews — Sarah’s family, to be specific. As she unearths the blighted history of her apartment, we come closer and closer to learning Sarah’s fate.
Sarah’s tale is so horrific and unimaginable, it’s sometimes difficult to watch. Meanwhile, as Julia grapples with owning a home that once belonged to deported Jews, her delicate circumstances introduce a compelling moral complexity.
Having said that, there’s a manipulative quality to “Sarah’s Key” that undermines the innate power of Sarah’s story. Julia’s personal growth is supposed to feel consequential — something is missing from her life, and her marriage is growing strained — but it all feels artificial. Shoehorning Julia and Sarah into one story might have worked as a book, but it’s not quite as successful on the big screen.