Editors' pick

The Reader

The Reader movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
A teenager and a woman twice his age (Kate Winslet) embark on a secret relationship in post-World War II Germany.
Starring: Kate Winslett, Ralph Finnes, David Kross, Jeanette Hain
Director: Stephen Daldry
Running time: 2:03

Editorial Review

Bernhard Schlink's highly regarded novel "The Reader" receives a graceful, absorbing screen adaptation by director Stephen Daldry ("The Hours"), who conveys a technically and morally complicated story with consummate skill and smoothness. Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes deliver fine performances as the tortured souls at the center of "The Reader's" wrenching portrait of Germany reckoning with its Nazi past. But the standout here is 18-year-old German actor David Kross, whose portrayal of a teenage Michael Berg suggests a promising future.

In 1958, 15-year-old Michael meets Hanna (Winslet), a 36-year-old tram worker who seduces the boy, then mysteriously disappears. Eight years later, as a law student in Heidelberg, Michael encounters Hanna again, this time in the troubling context of wartime atrocities. Traveling back and forth in time, from the 1950s and 1960s to the 1980s and 1990s, "The Reader" traces how Michael copes with the secret he and Hanna share and, by extension, the shame and silence that shrouded his country's past.

With an admirably restrained screenplay by David Hare and gorgeous camerawork by Roger Deakins and Chris Menges, "The Reader" is the kind of high-toned literary adaptation that too often founders on the shoals of its own impeccable taste. Instead, as undeniably tasteful as "The Reader" is, it's also an absorbing and finally moving account of how one man comes to terms with both history and his story.

-- Ann Hornaday (Dec. 25, 2008)

Contains scenes of sexuality and nudity.