THE READER // Nothing short of brilliant, Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader” is a twisting turning drama with stunning performances and constant surprises, delving into an interesting structure in which to tell a story with. Ralph Fiennes plays brooding lead man Michael Berg, whose thoughtful performance bookends the film, as the rest of the story is told through flashbacks of his life, encountering the love his life in the much older Hanna Schmitz, played by the graceful and enigmatic Kate Winslet, who captures every essence of this role and makes it her own. A sexual coming of age for young Michael Berg (David Kross), his relationship with Hanna stems off mutual pleasure in sex and reading, to which Michael reads to Hanna from the books he brings from school. Early on you realize Hanna’s secret, but the film plays out as if you’re not aware, which holds back the narrative slightly and causes for some anticlimactic revelations late in the film. The real twist comes when the relationship ends and Michael goes off to college to study law. Involved in a trial for Nazi war crimes, Michael makes a shocking discovery that changes the course of his life and the rest of the film. “The Reader” hinges on exquisite storytelling and exhilarating performances from both Winslet and Kross, who both reach beyond what you believe they are capable of and turn in some truly unforgettable deliveries. Fiennes, too, brings the film full circle in a way only he can, and with enough emotion to end up breaking your heart, Daldry achieves his gold of getting the viewer to feel for these characters. Not nearly what I was expecting from this film, it definitely deserves the attention that it received and will continue to be one of the best films from all those involved.

[Directed by Stephen Daldry] [R] [124 min] [12 December 2008]   09fourhalf-stars

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