I've been slow to get around to watching this movie, so I apologize to all you movie buffs who are reading this thinking "Um, why are you just now reviewing this, movie-blogger?"
I thought this movie was very good. It definitely was moving. Kate's performance, obviously, was great as she won the Oscar for this role. It was a very interesting look at the affect this woman had on the life of a young man and how his encounters with her continued to affect him his entire life. Even though this movie was sort of about the Holocaust, it didn't really offer comfort or absolution regarding it, which is something you might expect. Spoilers below.
It is interesting that the main character of this movie is a woman that not many people would be able to relate to or sympathize with. She has an affair with a 15 year old boy, she was a guard at a camp during the Holocaust. However, somehow, with her expressive eyes and afflicted disposition, Winslet was still able to earn a bit of sympathy from the viewers.
The scene that really got me was when Michael decided to visit Hannah in jail while she awaited sentencing, to try to convince her to let the judges know she is illiterate (evidence that would have proven she wasn't in charge of a huge crime). They bring Hannah into the room to wait to see who her visitor is, a man she hasn't seen since he was a boy, but he changed his mind on the way in and leaves. The camera zooms into Hannah's nervous, tortured and yet curious face to see who this person is that's come to visit her, but she's left without an answer. They send her back to her cell without an explanation and nothing changes. She's convicted of crimes far worse than what she committed.
Absolutely cut to my heart, Winslet's face and demeanor here. Sold it. Beautifully tragic and demanding of pity and love despite her character's previously horrific deeds. That's the mark of a great actress, allowing the audience to connect with someone even through the judgment they may be casting on the character.
Another small moment that I loved was when Michael was reading to Hannah, and it was the end of The Odyssey, I think, at the part where it talked about Odysseus' wife dying. Hannah was lying against Michael's chest, just weeping as he read. It was so precious, at least to me, to see someone really being affected by literature that way. And what a tragedy, that she never was able to read things that she loved for herself until she was in prison, nearing the end of her life.
The only thing I had a hard time with was the editing and jumps in time that kept happening. I felt that David Kross did a great job as Michael from age 15-23. I didn't see him turn, in 10 years time, into Ralph Fiennes. It just didn't fit for me. But I was able to over look this, for the most part. However, I was disappointed to see that they made such a big deal about Ralph and Kate being in this movie together, but they really only had one scene together. I wish David Koss had gotten more hype, because I thought he out-shined Fiennes just a bit.
Overall, I thought the story was stirring and unique. I really liked it, and was completely drawn in by Kate Winslet, like always. I was also very impressed by David Kross and hope to see him in more films in the future.
Sheesh! It's about time I saw this Oscar movie from 2008. MAN, I'm a bit behind.