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Sarah's Key unlocks WWII mystery

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Wartime complicity takes center stage in Sarah's Key, an involving drama about a woman who reawakens a nation's shame as she tries to piece together a mystery buried in the past.

Based on Tatiana De Rosnay's novel, this stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia Jarmond, an American journalist who decides to research the Parisian apartment that's been in her husband's family since some time during World War II. She soon learns that the previous occupants were the Starzynskis, who like many other Jews were rounded up by French officials in collusion with Germany. As Julia tries to discover the fates of the Starzynski family members - particularly Sarah, who was a child at the time - flashbacks allow us to track the events that transpired during and after the war.

It's almost a given that the flashback scenes involving Jewish persecution are more weighty - and thus more involving - than the contemporary sequences in which Julia primarily bickers with her husband (Frederic Pierrot) over her unexpected pregnancy. And I wish more time had been dedicated to the intriguing question of whether it's always best to keep history alive or whether it's desirable in some instances to allow it to lay dormant. Yet the movie offers a unique angle on a familiar tragedy, and the performances by Thomas and especially Melusine Mayance (as the young Sarah) are key to the picture's success.

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