Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year old girl, is captured with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard - their secret hiding place - and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released. Sixty seven years later: Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist investigating the Vel'd'Hiv Roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her family's future.
Sarah’s Key is the English name of a largely French language film named Elle s’appelait Sarah by director of 2001’s Pretty Things Gilles Paquet-Brenner and based on a best selling French novel.
Sarah’s Key is a story based on factual events that took place during World War in occupied France; where Jewish people were herded on mass into a sports centre where they waited to be transported to the death camps. Another foreign language film, The Round Up, from 2010 tells a story of the same event, however the two films could not differ more in their take on this horrendous historical act.
In Sarah’s KeyKristin Scott-Thomas plays Julia, a journalist researching an article about the incident when she discovers a troubling connection between herself and a victim of the horrors. Meanwhile, the story of Sarah, one of the Jews forced into the winter velodrome sports centre, who before being arrested locks her younger brother in a closet in the hopes that it, will keep him safe. Sarah then keeps the key to this closet on her person at all times throughout her ordeal.
The movie is absolutely heart wrenching and disturbing, largely because the depiction of the conditions at the winter velodrome are painfully realistic and probably accurate. Thomas is excellent, as ever, and it is her screen presence alone that redeems the final quarter of the film when Julia travels across Europe in order to find the infamous Sarah.
For those with a soft heart, this film may well bring tears to your eyes.