First Hit: Extremely well-acted film about the effects of Nazi Germany in small neighborhood.
I cannot remember when a film about WWII Nazi Germany shows Germans being unhappy about and not fully behind their Fuhrer. This dislike isn’t pronounced at first but it builds as neighbors are being removed from their home and businesses.
In this story Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) is abandoned by her mom shortly after her brother dies. The grave digger drops a book and she picks it up and holds it as a treasure. Her adoptive parents Hans (Geoffery Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) are somewhat hardened by their life. His sign painting business is non-existent she brings in laundry to make ends meet. Rosa is gruff but there are moments when her heart just soars and Hans, on the other hand, is a warm hearted man whose strength is compassion.
Liesel is picked on by other kids in the school because she cannot read. However she finds ways to obtain books, read them and write words on the wall that she is learning. Rudy (Nico Liersch), the neighbor boy, likes and befriends her. Rosa, Hans and Liesel hide Max (Ben Schnetzer) a Jewish man trying to keep from being killed by the Germans.
The story revolves around how this neighborhood is effected by the war the Nazi’s are aimed at waging against the world. In the end, her reading and the diary Max insisted she keep turned her into an author. However, it is death, the narrator of this film, that pulls it all together with his voice over.
Nelisse is phenomenal as the young abandoned girl who learned to love and trust. Rush is sublime as the kind man who can see the beauty in most things and openly shares his love towards Liesel. Watson is amazing and clearly perfect for the role as hardened, yet heartfelt wife. Liersch was great as Rudy, the neighbor boy who loved Liesel from the moment he saw her. Schnetzer was really good as Max. Roger Allam was perfect as death’s voice and film narrator. Michael Petroni wrote a very strong script. Brian Percival directed these actors with amazing aplomb.
Overall: This film is a wonderful view of German life during WWII.