Out of the Ashes (2003) starring Christine Lahti, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Cake, Jolyon Baker, Jessica Beitchman, Oliver Cotton, Michelle Fine directed by Joseph Sargent Movie Review

Out of the Ashes (2003)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Christine Lahti in Out of the Ashes (2003)

The Dr. Gisella Perl Story

"Out of the Ashes" is a movie which tells a very powerful true story, the story of Dr. Gisella Perl, a Hungarian Jew who was in Auschwitz and survived but faced difficulties when after the war she headed to America and in seeking to continue to practice medicine was questioned over her time working as a doctor alongside German doctors in the camp. But let me ask you a question; have you ever heard of Dr. Gisella Perl before or are aware of her story? I ask this because "Out of the Ashes" like many true story movies has a problem and that it is almost a movie which appears to have been made for those who already know what Dr. Perl went through. That doesn't mean it isn't interesting, moving or sickening for those who watch with no prior knowledge but it does prove to be a bit of hard work for those with no prior knowledge.

Now in many ways "Out of the Ashes" is two stories in one as whilst the movie is set in post war America as Dr. Perl arrives and seeks both to continue practicing medicine but gain citizenship it often relies on flashbacks to before and during the war from Gisella as a young girl deciding to become a doctor to ending up in Auschwitz and saving women's lives by performing secret abortions.

Beau Bridges in Out of the Ashes (2003)

Now the story set in post war tells of Dr. Perl's battle to become an American citizen and finding herself constantly questioned even interrogated by the INS due rumours of her having been a Nazi sympathiser. With each event which happens in the movies now we see a flashback which reinforces something in the now. And most importantly it highlights what Dr. Perl did during the war, ending up working along side German doctors in the prison camps, performing secret abortions and not through her own choice. I am not going to go in to a lot of detail when it comes to individual scenes or exactly what happens other than to say some of it is extremely hard hitting.

But as I said right at the start "Out of the Ashes" feels very much like a movie made for those already away of the Dr. Gisella Perl story and want to see what they know dramatized. Maybe this is an issue brought on by this being a made for TV movie and not being allowed the time to really tell Dr. Perl's story to its full. In truth whilst "Out of the Ashes" kept me interested and moved me and even prompted me to learn more I still have a feeling that the true story deserves a much better movie, a movie much longer to fully do it justice.

Despite this the one thing I wouldn't change is the performance of Christine Lahti who digs deep to deliver one of the most rounded performances you will see. There is pain, joy, hurt, confidence, a desire and so much more which comes from just the way she looks and acts and that is before she even starts to deliver the powerful dialogue. In truth there are a lot of good performances and some well known names in "Out of the Ashes" but it is Lahti's depth of performance which is what makes this movie, well that and the sobering story.

What this all boils down to is that "Out of the Ashes" is in truth a good movie and one which tells a powerful story. But it is a movie which feels like it has been made for those already aware of Dr. Gisella Perl and her story.