DRAMA; 2hr 4min
STARRING: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross
Words and music: Winslet and Kross
What a year this has been for Kate Winslet — with Revolutionary Road, and now, the atmospheric unveiling of The Reader. She is a force field in both films. And as The Reader ’s Hanna, a tram conductress in post–World War II Berlin whose affair with a 15-year-old boy (natural newbie Kross as Michael) is defiantly erotic, Winslet is abrasive, sensual, mysterious and brave. Hanna is a contrary creature: she loves have literary works read to her to Michael as much as she relishes their sex. And then she vanishes.
Scripted by David Hare from Bernhard Schlink’s semi-autobiographical 1995 novel and directed by an attentive Stephen Daldry (The Hours), the story spans decades. Fiennes is its anchor as the adult Michael, an enclosed lawyer who has never emotionally regrouped from Hanna’s abrupt disappearance and his consequent witnessing of her trial for war crimes. In its catalogue of folly, ignorance, misjudgment and the shame that succeeds them, The Reader is a slow lament — as much for what is left undone as for the dreadful events that unfold.