Movie Review: The Reader (2008)

Genre: Drama; Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes

“What would you have done?”
“Is that kinder?”

These questions may not have an impact on you now but watch The Reader and you’ll see. And the funny thing is, the movie does not answer these questions. It just asks. And it’s up to you to find answers for yourself.

Only two emotions get the better of me: shame and guilt. Director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter David Hare (people behind The Hours) explored these emotions gracefully in The Reader. You can just imagine how much this film affected me, being someone always overpowered by guilt and shame.

The film’s plot centers on a sexual affair between a curious 15-year old boy and a 36-year old enigma, who turns out to be one of the Auschwitz guards during the Holocaust. Although it is an integral element in the film, The Reader is NOT a Holocaust movie. Or maybe it is. Wahaha. But whatever, it does not steer away from the absorbing illicit relationship between the two characters.

Kate Winslet is a standout. She attacked the role with a precision incomparable to any of her other performances. Her eyes scream her past. Also, the way she irons her underwear. And the way she closes doors. And the way she puts her foot in front of the other. Winslet was able to balance the guilt of a naïve former Nazi guard who does not know the consequences of her actions and the shame of an illiterate human being.

Given its premise, one may expect big scenes with larger than life confrontations, characters screaming their emotions out — histrionics in a typical Oscar-aspiring melodrama. But Stephen Daldry carefully avoided such scenes. Emotions are conveyed in ways too slow and subtle, the film gives you enough time to think. Think. Think. Feel. And then think again.

Michael’s guilt is the guilt of the post-war German generation. Michael’s guilt is also our guilt. Michael’s shame is our shame. Hanna’s shame is our shame. Her guilt is our guilt, too. This film rubs in our faces, without us being aware of it, how broken we are as a people by simply showing how broken we are as human beings.

“What would you have done?”
“Is that kinder?”

These lines still echo in my head. It’s been a week.

Forget about Slumdog Millionaire. I want this to win the Best Picture Oscar. 5.0


  1. have not seen any of these films… pero may copy dito sa bahay ng revolutionary road… tsaka reader.. tingnan ko kung makasilp ako dun sa mga pelikula.

  2. Suburbia. Boring as it seems, suburbia is a deep well of materials for film and TV. The loneliness and grief found in suburbia, as shown in films such as American Beauty and The Safety of Objects, make me wanna thank God I’m living a cosmopolitan life despite EDSA and MMDA. Wala lang, nabanggit ko lang.

    True! Suburban families and their neighbors! Hahaha. I experience that everyfuckingday.

    Revolutionary Road, Milk, & The Reader (in that order) are also my top favorites for this awards season.

    BTW, Milk and Doubt opened today in Manila cinemas.

  3. i am curious to watch that revolutionary road. it would be nice to see kate and leo teaming up for a film again 🙂

    dala-dalawa pala movie ni kate! astig..hehe!

  4. Haven’t seen any of these films except Milk. Not planning to watch them though. Especially Revolutionary Road. Because it’ll probably remind me of my suburban life.

  5. it’s your fault i watched “the reader”

    but it’s one of the best films i watched! winslet really nailed this character.
    and tama ka, shame and guilt are the key elements, naawa talaga ko sa character ni Hanna Schmitz lalo nung pinapasulat sya nung sa trial. huhuhu.

    hope this film will win an oscar!

  6. in your review, you left out an important detail: is there nudity in the movie?

    i only go see artsy films when there’s nudity in it… so i hope i’m not going to be disappointed now that you’ve convinced me to go see it.


    but the screen shot above is very encouraging.

  7. hey.. if u like the reader (movie version), you should read the book.. I’ve read the book a year before the movie was made. I love the movie but i still love the book more. may mga important parts kasi ung book na they did not include in the movie. but in fairness to Kate Winslet, I don’t know any actress who could have done the role better than her.

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