Tag Archives: movie review

The Book Thief Evokes WWII Germany

Wednesday Matinee

By Jane Boursaw

Destination: Germany

Movie: The Book Thief

I haven’t read Markus Zusak’s book upon which The Book Thief is based, but now I want to. I love this movie. It’s one of those rare films you can call a “quality film” and actually mean it.

And not only is the PG-13 rating on target, but it’s a good film for teens to see — to learn more about World War II from the perspective of a German kid, and also learn about a time when books were burned in big heaps in the village square. It’s the sort of thing that seems almost unthinkable to American kids, but there it was.

The Book Thief was filmed in various locations in Germany, including Berlin; Görlitz, Saxony; and Studio Babelsberg, Potsdam, Brandenburg. Much thought was put into every single detail, from the train station to the authentic wardrobes, cars and homes. And the film itself seems to have been washed in a vintage patina that brings that era and location alive.

The Book Thief

Like the book, the film is narrated by Death (Roger Allam), who explains that he rarely cares about the stories of the living, with the exception of young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse). In 1938, Liesel is riding on a train with her frightened mother (Heike Makatsch), who’s rumored to be a Communist, and her sick little brother (Julian Lehmann), who dies before they reach their destination.

During an impromptu funeral in a desolate graveyard along the way, Liesel steals The Gravedigger’s Handbook as a memento. And thus begins her noble life of crime. She’s soon delivered to her childless foster parents, a gentle painter named Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and his curmudgeonly wife Rosa (Emily Watson).

Hans discovers Liesel’s book and teaches her how to read, using not only the book, but the walls of the basement, where she writes word after word. Liesel befriends her neighbor, a tow-headed boy named Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch) who runs fast, idolizes Olympic idol Jesse Owens, and fends off schoolyard bullies.

The Book Thief

When Hans and Rosa agree to hide a young Jewish man, Max (Ben Schnetzer), in their basement, Liesel forms a friendship with him, reads to him when he’s sick, and helps her adoptive parents hide him when the Nazis come around. As the war progresses, Max — who teaches Liesel to resist hate, even as the regimen closes in — realizes that he’s putting all of them in danger.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief is at turns heartbreaking and joyful, and acting vets Rush and Watson are wonderful as a bickering married couple who clearly love each other. Nelisse is spot-on as the feisty, optimistic Liesel, who manages to overcome the worst circumstances a young child could endure. Her heart remains open, even as the people she loves disappear from her life.

The Book Thief is a story of hope, loss, perseverance, literacy and love, both for the people in our lives and the books on our shelves.

Le Week-end Tours Paris and Life After 60


Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan in “Le Week-end” | Music Box Films

Destination: Paris

Movie: Le Week-end

This review is adapted from Reel Life With Jane, where I first wrote it as a rave for Hollywood–and Hollywood on the Thames for recognizing that life and love does not stop at 30-something. VMB

In the British film, “Le Week-end”, a couple in their sixties (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) travel to Paris for the weekend to revisit the scene of their honeymoon 30 years before. We get silent clues about their relationship as they ride the train into the city, each engrossed in his/her own newspaper. Even the choice of newspapers (see the picture above) tells us this couple are not on the same page.

He wants only to get to the hotel and settle down, she–to the delight of the viewer–wants to see all of Paris, and keeps feeding euros to the driver to keep him driving as we get a tour of all the gorgeous streets of Paris.

Boredom has crept into their marriage, turning her shrewish and him desperate.  At times, the sharp dialogue sounds like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, ” except that it is interspersed with moments of true affection and plenty of humor.

When they arrive at their honeymoon hotel in Montmarte–after a lot of uphill climbing, which somehow they had not noticed thirty years ago–they discover that it has gone downhill and she insists they leave.

Maybe younger viewers won’t get it, but the over-60 crowd will understand that just because your knees rebel at climbing the steps to Sacre Couer with the same speed as in your 30s, life is not over.

The question is, how to stay alive while you are still living.

The couple are co-conspirators in life — used to playing supporting roles for each other in such capers as running away from a restaurant bill. Jeff Goldblum as a thoroughly obnoxious American writer serves as a catalyst for some painful truth telling at a dinner party that turns into denouement.

Le Week-end definitely rates as a movie for the traveler’s library. (Not out on DVD yet, the film just starting making the rounds of American theaters in September). As they enjoy the couple’s struggles in “Le Week-end,” viewers are treated to scenes in Montemarte and along the Seine and in expensive Parisian hotels and restaurants. Ahh, Paree, ageless City of (ageless) Love.

The Horse Boy – Seeking Shamanic Healing for Autism in Mongolia

Pet Travel Tuesday

Destination: Mongolia

Film: The Horse Boy (2009).

By Pamela Douglas Webster



Ed. Note: See Pam’s Companion article on the healing powers of animals at Something Wagging This Way Comes.

How do you heal an autistic child?

How do you comfort a child whose brain causes him to have several tantrums a day? How do you communicate with someone who doesn’t speak? And how do you cope, day after day, with a five-year old who refuses to use a toilet?

Rupert Isaacson and his wife, Kristin Neff, researched every option for treating their son Rowan’s autism. Nothing helped. Continue reading The Horse Boy – Seeking Shamanic Healing for Autism in Mongolia