Liesel Meminger (played by Sophie Nélisse) is a casualty of war. In war-torn Germany during World War 2 she is only 14 years old, when she becomes separated from her mother and brother. She is delivered to the home of Hans Hubermann (by Geoffrey Rush) and his wife Rosa (by Emily Watson) as their adopted daughter. Hans is very gentle with Leisel, but Rosa gives very tough love so Leisel learns very quickly how to steel her feelings against despair and disappointment. Having had very little education due to the war, when she attends the village school she struggles, particularly with literacy. A boy in the village, Rudy Steiner (by Nico Liersch) makes friends with her when he sees she is very new. Hans cares tenderly for Leisel and teaches her to read – from this point on, Leisel finds her joy in the world of books and loses herself in the stories. One day she discovers a vast library in the home of the Mayor and his wife Frau Heinrich (by Kirsten Block) and starts to “borrow” the books. A family friend Max (by Ben Schnetzer), arrives to stay at their home, but he is Jewish so this places huge risk on the family as they must keep him hidden from authorities. Thanks to her love of books, Leisel finds ways to live amongst the trauma and horror in this village during the war and beyond ….
This movie is very nice and Leisel is such a marvellous girl – she evokes a joy in anyone watching who also loves books. The performance by Sophie Nelisse is marvellous and for this work she was awarded with Best Actor wins at the Hollywood Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival and Satellite Awards, no wonder. As Herr and Frau Hermann, the roles played by Geoffrey Rush and particularly Emily Watson are very good too. Emily Watson’s Rosa is such a harridan; she is stoic and stern faced, just marvellous. Geoffrey Rush enmeshes easy but warm tenderness into his gentle character, it’s beautiful to see. However, for all this, there’s something missing in this movie for me – it could be wonderful, but for me it’s just good. Perhaps it’s that I don’t share the joy of reading that Leisel discovers. It is a dramatization of the novel “The Book Thief” by Markus Zuzak, which is where the narration originates, but to me it’s superfluous – doesn’t add anything either. However, overall it’s quite a good movie.
Made in 2013. Directed by Brian Percival.