The Reader: Stephen Daldry


by The Great White Gypsy



“How far would you go to protect a secret?” 

Hopefully further than Stephen Daldry did in The Reader.

The Reader started out as an obscure little art film, before exploding into theaters after the Golden Globes gave Kate Winslet a Best Supporting Actress for it.  I hadn’t seen too many previews for it, and I love Kate, but I don’t like Ralph Fiennes, so all in all I feel I was going in pretty objective.

The story seems simple, but it is long and drawn out.  Michael Berg (Fiennes) is a middle-aged man with no serious relationships and an “estranged” daughter.  As he sends his latest sexual conquest packing, he starts to reminisce about an affair he had when he was 15.  The woman, Hanna (Winslet) was twice his age, and he spent a summer reading classic books and making love to her.  Then, abruptly, she disappeared.  Quickly cut to college law classes.  His professor takes them to Berlin to witness the trials of Nazi war criminals, and he is surprised to find that she is one of the SS on trial.  She is sentenced to life in prison, and Michael’s love gets the better of him.  He spends the next decade reading aloud into a tape recorder and sending them to her in prison.

This is only Stephen Daldry’s third film (Billy Elliot, The Hours), and, admittedly, he takes on projects that are a little mature for a rookie.  The stories don’t really allow for amazing camera work, superb editing, or anything technical.  They are solid films, but not special.

The acting was good.  But just good.  Ralph Fiennes didn’t provide a lot of emotion.  Kate Winslet is always good, and this was in interesting project for her, but she did an exceptional job in Revolutionary Road, and after seeing that, this performance just didn’t jump off the screen.

This review is somewhat difficult, in that the film jumps around so much in the timeline (back, forward, back, sideways, kind of unnecessary) and I don’t want to throw out any spoilers in any of them.  What I will say is that this was probably an amazing book (written by Bernard Schlink), but the translation to the screen just seemed to drag on and on.  I never got the feeling that Michael was really estranged from his daughter, the relationship wasn’t that bad.  It never explained why his relationship with his parents was so strained.  Basically, in every timeline, there was so much more that could have been said, shown, understood, but in a two-hour movie, you have to keep moving, and even then, every scene seemed to drag on.  I’d like to think I’m open-minded when it comes to film, but this was…boring.

Some people really liked this movie.  Some people really didn’t.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  It is not a bad film; it’s just not a great film.  The nominations it received are strange to me and, like I said: if Winslet’s going to be nominated for something, give it to her for her dynamite role in Revolutionary Road, not this yawn-inducing Lifetime Original wannabe.

And the secret?  Obvious in the first twenty minutes, frustrating for the rest of the film.

Final Grade: C+


One Response to “The Reader: Stephen Daldry”

  1. 1 Popular People » Blog Archive » The Reader: Stephen Daldry « Sexy Gypsy.

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