'Sarah's Key' review: Not really about Sarah or her key

** (out of four)

Do you like movies that constantly bounce back and forth between the past and present? Here’s another one: Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas) suspects that the apartment she’s about to move into was once owned by Jews who were deported by the French in 1942, and in flashbacks the movie shows that’s exactly the case.
 
The buzz: Am I the only one who would love to see Thomas shake things up and do a movie that isn’t always so serious? (Same to you, DiCaprio.) Though for what it’s worth, if you’re going to adapt the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, you could do a lot worse than casting Thomas or Niels Arestrup (so great in “A Prophet”), who appears as a compassionate Frenchman.
 
The verdict: If only “Sarah’s Key” stuck with its title character, who locks her little brother in a secret closet to protect him from her captors and must escape to try to save him. The film’s structure of alternating between time periods takes the urgency out of the past, while the present never had any to begin with. (Can Julia find out the truth before she moves?!) “Sarah’s Key” feels like “Julie and Julia” in that half the time you wish you were watching the other storyline, though nothing here has any mystery or depth to it. Earlier this year “Incendies” presented a spectacular story about painful family truths and what they signify on a larger scale. “Sarah’s Key” would rather show how Julia selfishly obsesses her way into another family’s life as a way of distracting herself from her own conflict with her husband. Needless to say, that has nothing to do with the Holocaust, which, by film’s end, comes close to being treated as manipulative context for a superficial tale about something else.
 
Did you know? One character describes the French’s treatment of the Jews as being like what happened in the Superdome in New Orleans, only a million times worse. Gotta say: When it comes to horrible situations faced by people who deserved so much better—whether the problem was caused by people or weather—it’s not a competition.
 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Hot Hollywood interviews

    Hot Hollywood interviews

    The most memorable quotes from our latest movie Q&As, including Ethan Hawke, Aubrey Peeples, Nick Kroll, Michiel Huisman, Freida Pinto, Dan Savage, Joel McHale, Noah Baumbach, Veronica Roth, Margot Robbie, Bella Heathcote, Kevin Costner/Anthony Mackie, Sienna Miller, Emily Ratajkowski, David Oyelowo/Ava...

  • Worst new movies

    Worst new movies

    The recent awfulness we've seen, like 'Aloha,' 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Hot Pursuit,' 'The D Train,' 'The Squeeze,' 'The Longest Ride,' 'Get Hard,' 'Serena,' 'Cinderella,' 'Run All Night,' 'The Lazarus Effect,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' 'Jupiter Ascending,' 'Seventh Son,' 'The...

  • Shrug-worthy new movies

    Shrug-worthy new movies

    'San Andreas,' 'Tomorrowland,' 'Lambert & Stamp,' 'Avengers: Age of Ultron,' 'Adult Beginners,' 'True Story,' 'Ex Machina,' 'Desert Dancer,' 'Furious 7,' '5 to 7,' 'Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,' 'Danny Collins,' 'The Gunman,' ''71,' 'Maps to the Stars,' 'Bluebird,' 'The DUFF,'...

  • Best new movies

    Best new movies

    Reviews of recent favorites like 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'Welcome to Me,' 'Clouds of Sils Maria,' 'While We're Young,' 'Woman in Gold,' 'Insurgent,' 'It Follows,' 'The Hunting Ground,' 'Focus,' 'What We Do in the Shadows,' 4-star 'The Last Five Years,' 'McFarland, USA,' 'Girlhood,' 'Mommy,' 4-star...

  • Good movies to rent now

    Good movies to rent now

    See what recent DVD releases are worth your time and money. Don't rent? Check out the newest movies to stream here.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page. 

Comments
Loading