Opening in limited release this week with a wider release planned for January, The Reader has "prestigious arthouse drama" written all over it. It's an adaptation of a critically acclaimed German novel by Bernhard Schlink, but translated into English for wider appeal, and features a big dramatic performance from Kate Winslet in which we see her character over the span of decades. It's directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted by David Hare, who collaborated on another prestigious adaptation together, The Hours in 2002. This time, their movie explores German relationships that are affected, even decades later, by the Holocaust.
The movie is told as a flashback from the point of view of a middle-aged lawyer in Berlin, Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes). Back in the late 1950s, 15-year-old Michael (David Kross) falls ill on the way home from school one day, and is comforted and helped by a strange woman (Winslet). When he recuperates and returns to her home to thank her, a sexual spark flares up between them into an inappropriate but sympathetic relationship. They meet every afternoon, not just for sex but for reading -- he starts by reading her the books assigned to him for school, but ends up finding all manner of literature for them to share. However, Hanna is full of secrets -- she is even reluctant to tell Michael her name -- and the effects of her past and her secret-keeping are long-reaching and dramatic.