The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
During World War II, a Nazi officer (David Thewlis) receives a promotion and moves his wife (Vera Farmiga), teenage daughter, Gretel (Amber Beattie), and 8-year-old son, Bruno (Asa Butterfield), to a remote country house. Almost immediately, Bruno sees through his bedroom window a nearby “farm,” where the workers wear “striped pajamas.” Curious and bored, Bruno sneaks out, makes his way through the woods, and comes upon a barbed-wire fence, behind which sits Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a pale, thin, clearly starving boy who is Bruno’s age. Bruno begins visiting Shmuel every day and slowly — very slowly — comes to realize that strange and possibly terrible things are happening on this farm that his father oversees. In adapting Irishman John Boyne’s acclaimed young-adult novel, writer-director Mark Herman (Little Voice) draws beautifully modulated performances from his two child actors, who navigate a full range of emotions from wonder to betrayal to guilt. In the end, their characters meet a fate so absurdly melodramatic that I cringed. But a moment later, it occurred to me that the finale might just devastate — and educate — adolescent audiences, themselves only a little less naïve than Bruno, who could do worse than have this earnest, well-made film be their first Holocaust drama.