I read the book for this one some time ago, and had forgotten enough of it so that I was coming in to the story fresh, and wow did I enjoy this one. Great performances, a stirring score, thank you John Williams and an emotional and human tale from a script by Michael Petroni, based on Markus Zusak’s acclaimed and beloved novel.
At the story’s center is Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), a young German girl delivered to her new foster family, in a tiny little town. Her new father, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and mother, Rosa (Emily Watson) take her in, though the transition is not smooth. Hans keeps at her though, and the two become very close. Unfortunately, trouble and tragedy lay before them as the Second World War draws closer, ruining their idyllic little village.
Thrust upon the newly formed family is Max (Ben Schnetzer), a young Jew who comes to Hans for help. Liesel and Max form a strong friendship, as both he and Hans continue to expand her love of words. A passion she indulges by ‘borrowing’ books from the burgermeister’s home, much to the shock of her friend, Rudy (Nico Liersch).
As the war draws closer, things grow increasingly difficult for Liesel and her family, but that doesn’t stop them from taking joy and hope where they find it, and there are some beautiful sequences that show happiness in the shadow of so much oncoming darkness.
Young Nelisse is amazing holding her own against Rush and Watson, no easy task that, and she’s simply wonderful as Liesel.
Rush and Watson are top-drawer of course, and despite the fact that their characters occasionally bicker at one another, you truly believe that there is a deep love there and the way the trio form a perfect family is rendered in a lovely way.
Watching the relationship between Liesel and Rudy is a joy, there’s an innocence and naiveté to Rudy’s pursuit of Liesel and the two young actors have a nice chemistry together.
The film itself is beautifully shot and crafted, and complete takes you in. Some people may have a few problems with the Narrator (Roger Allam), especially when they learn who that character actually is, but I thought it was done just right, and added another level of emotion to the film.
I couldn’t believe how much of the book I had forgotten, though I remember the summer I read it. But I highly enjoyed this adaptation and loved the story, the performances, and all the little moments through out the film. The interactions with Max, her dictionary, their Christmas, and the way the war intrudes on their lives, so slowly at first, simply as trucks passing by with troops aboard, to the film’s end.
Highly enjoyed this one, it’s on Netflix now, so if you missed it, check it out now!