The Reader

Starring Ralph Feinnes and Kate Winslett.Directed by Stephen Daldry.In cinemas from January 2.

Starring Ralph Feinnes and Kate Winslett. Directed by Stephen Daldry. In cinemas from January 2.


I'm being honest, I'm going in semi-unprepared for this. I should do my research, of course, but what fun is that? It's good, sometimes, to go in not-knowing what to expect... a fog of movie bliss, perhaps, or a murky shadow of wasted time?

What I do know: it stars Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslett in, it's something about World War II and the Holocaust. 'We've seen it all before!' I hear you shout, and we may indeed have... but as this is up for the Best Picture Oscar too it's bound to be pretty good.

The director, Stephen Daldry, is famous for the ever-popular Billy Elliot, and has been out of action since sub-par Nicole Kidman effort The Hours. This is his next one, and from a director who's never caught my eye and is prolific in the not particularly cool way (he's hardly a Terence Malick figure!) I don't expect classic things from this - but hey, who knows.


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I understand now. I went in blinded, and now understand why the Oscar judges nominated this splendid movie for the Best Picture accolade at the Oscars.

Let me explain, as my previous unknowing self was unable to, the basic gist of it; the story, without giving too much away, follows a young teenager (a sublime newbie David Kross) who gets aided by a woman (Winslett) in the 50s. She helps him home, and when the boy recovers from this he goes to thank her. They, through subtle movements and actions, bond and start a secret sexual relationship. It goes on, they both grow older... and the story moves on, through both of their lives. It involves, as you probably know, the Second World War in a particularly shocking way. That sounds difficult to follow, right? But it really isn't. It's a well-told story, and easy to follow. Some critics have noted it is confusing, but I'm not sure how. It's done just right, through (miraculously) swift and intelligent direction from Stephen Daldry.

It matched my anticipation and far surpassed it; purely because it went further and wider than I expected. It told a relatively easy story, touching on the most difficult subjects, and coming out by the end as a good, not overlong whole. Clocking in at just over two hours, it importantly does not overstay its welcome. There are some overly sentimental moments that it could probably do without, but they aren't glaringly off-putting and cringeworthy.

The standout performance is Kate Winslett, of course, and she does indeed deserve something this year. Her haunting repetition of 'kid' throughout the movie echoes long afterwards, and you grow to oddly sympathise with her.

But it's a complete jigsaw of a movie. I didn't expect a massive amount, and maybe I'm showing my true colours of someone easily won-over, but it does work, it shocks and awes the audience and, most importantly, draws upon different levels of emotion. Once I found out what the title meant, and how everything was coming together, it gripped and held tight until the dark credits fell.