The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

A Nazi commandant (David Thewlis) moves his family from Berlin to a country house, where his just-pubescent daughter (Amber Beattie) crushes on his lieutenant (Rupert Friend), his wife (Vera Farmiga) unravels upon discovering the reality of her breadwinner’s work, and — unbeknownst to all, yet most significantly — his young son (Asa Butterfield) befriends a kid (Jack Scanlon) in the nearby concentration camp. Writer-director Mark Herman’s adaptation of John Boyne’s young-adult novel might register to some viewers as offensively tasteful: not just because it’s an English production, with posh-sounding accents we don’t expect to hear in a Holocaust movie (even Farmiga has one, and she’s American), but also, ironically, because all the performances are so elegantly tempered. It suffers, too, from the dangerous power of cinematic literalism, which hammers its “never forget” message into a rare and therefore that much more disappointing false note in what must be the most ruthlessly unhappy movie ending of the year.  

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