The Reader is not a movie to be taken lightly. If you're thinking about going to see this one, you should be very aware of what exactly it is you're in for. This is 2 hours of intense drama, something that forces us to not only look back at the evils of history, but at the evils of ourselves and the choices that make us human.
Based on a German novel, The Reader starts out its story as a simple affair between a German train worker, Kate Winslet's Hanna Schmitz, and a young boy, Michael Berg (played at different ages by David Kross and Ralph Fiennes, both fantastic). It's what happens after the affair unravels that is the heart of this story. As Hanna's past unfolds and real-life takes over the place of Michael's boyish fantasies, what we're left with is the examination of what it means to be alive, to live and to love and the pain that can accompany the choices we make.
Honestly, a third of the way through this movie, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go. I was feeling a bit oversexed actually. All of the love scenes, and there are quite a few (so be aware), occur at the beginning and when the affair ends, the future is uncertain at best. But after that, the way the story unfolded surprised me a bit actually, and for that I was grateful. There are certain elements (like why it's titled The Reader) that are easily picked-up on by the audience, but the questions that this movie raises are, for me, the reason to see it. It's about so many aspects of life, forgiveness and shame, love and fear, choices and consequences, and everything in between.
Winslet, as always, is a standout, and if Revolutionary Road doesn't get her a nomination, this certainly will. She may get one for both, and she deserves all of them. Ralph Fiennes, again, is a seasoned professional and wears the pain of the older Michael with dignity and honesty. David Kross as the younger Michael should get plenty of jobs following this standout english film debut (and no it's not the boy from Chronicles of Narnia, but he's a pretty good doppelganger!)
I can't in good conscience recommend this for strictly entertainment purposes, you have to know that you're going in for a serious film, but if that's the mood you're in, this is a good bet. I actually think that my opinion has changed, in the favorable direction, just since Friday night, for the sheer fact that this is a movie that makes you think so much. Warning, you may have some serious discussions on the way home or over dinner.
Overall 4 out of 5 stars