Based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink, The Reader is split in thirds–one part sexual awakening story, one part courtroom drama, one part coming to grips with the past. But it’s the first third that’s the most memorable.
With Kate Winslet as a former Nazi concentration camp guard Hanna Schmitz who seduces a boy nearly half her age (David Kross as Michael Berg), The Reader captures those magical moments when two unlikely people connect. It’s a perfect snapshot of first-love, and a sexual dawning. The beginning is so intimate and sweet, it’s jarring when we follow Berg into his college years and he sees Hanna again, this time on trial for the crimes committed during the war.
The film shifts from the warm and glowing sensual tones of the earlier section and suddenly everything is stark–though not as black and white as you’d think. While the final third of the flick features Ralph Fiennes wandering around in a self-hating miserable haze, you imagine that its the beginning of the movie that the Academy members were honoring when they were voting for Best Picture.