The Girl with a Love of Books
The year is 1938 and young Liesel Meminger (Sophie NÃ©lisse) arrives at the home of Rosa (Emily Watson) and Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) who were expecting her and her younger brother. Sadly her brother died on the train journey there and as Liesel discovers she is being abandoned by her mother who has been labelled a communist would have struggled to care for her. Nevertheless Liesel takes moving and having new parents in her stride, becoming close to Hans who challenges her to learn to read whilst also becoming best friends with Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch), the boy next door with hair the colour of lemons. But the world is changing and Liesel not only finds herself secretly reading books which have been banned but also keeping it a secret that Rosa and Hans have taken in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew who they hide in their basement and who Liesel befriends.
I am going to leave that synopsis of "The Book Thief" there as whilst I could have easily told you a lot more I could have just as easily said that this is a movie about a young girl's experiences living in Germany during WWII. That is essentially what "The Book Thief" is, a look at the life of Liesel during WWII where thanks to the kind hearted Hans gains a passion for reading, becomes best friends with Rudy as well as Max who she would read to and describe what is going on in the world which he has to hide from. And all of this has this almost macabre element as right from the start we have a narration from Death.
Now this is where I find myself at a strange conflict because here is a movie about WWII told almost from the eyes of a young girl. As such we do have the harshness of war such as seeing men dragged in the streets for being Jewish, Rudy finding himself selected as he is spotted as being athletically superior and people running to the shelters when bombing starts. Yet this is one of the most beautiful movies you will see both when it comes to the hearts of Liesel, Rudy, Rosa, Hans, and Max but also visually with many a scene grabbing your attention because of the looks of Sophie NÃ©lisse. And it makes me wonder whether did the beauty of the characters and the story really grip me or was it just the beauty and crispness of the cinematography which was spell binding.
Nevertheless "The Book Thief" did grab me and young Sophie NÃ©lisse certainly delivers a beautiful performance as Liesel, taking us from being shy to radiating kindness and beauty. But then you also have the fun of Emily Watson playing it strict as Rosa and Geoffrey Rush giving us lots of kindness and understanding as Hans. In fairness it is as much about the writing of the characters as it is about the performances but the characters certainly have plenty of depth and charm.
What this all boils down to is that "The Book Thief" is certainly a beautiful movie and in truth maybe a little too beautiful considering it is dealing with the life of a young girl during WWII. Yet despite this it is also a captivating couple of hours of your life with enjoyable performances and some surprising smile moments.