The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/09/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins

Well made, emotionally engaging and superbly acted drama, though the film's overly simplistic, child's-eye-view approach might not work for everyone.

What's it all about?
Based on the novel by John Byne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is set in Germany during WWII and stars Asa Butterfield as eight-year-old Bruno, who is forced to move to the countryside with his mother (Vera Farmiga) and 12-year-old sister Greta (Amber Beattie) when their SS commandant father (David Thewlis) gets a job as the overseer to a concentration camp. Believing the camp to be a strange farm where everyone wears striped pyjamas, Bruno makes repeated visits to the camp's perimeter, where he befriends a boy his age named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) through the barbed wire fence.

The Good
Director Mark Herman does a terrific job of maintaining the child's-eye-view throughout the film and orchestrates some extremely powerful scenes as a result, including a climax that is genuinely devastating. The script is equally good, balancing Bruno's naivety with his mother's gradual awakening and his sister's growing attraction to both Nazism and her father's young assistant (Rupert Friend).

Butterfield strikes exactly the right note as Bruno and there's strong support from both Thewlis and Farmiga, while Beattie is both amusing and chilling as the Nazi-worshipping Greta. The dialogue is spoken in English, which thankfully avoids any dodgy German accents but also has the effect of making the film seem like a surreal play. The film is also beautifully shot, with striking cinematography courtesy of Benoît Delhomme and an effective score by James Horner.

The Bad
That said, the film's overly simplistic, child's-eye-view approach might not work for everyone, because the film doesn't really work unless you treat the story as a sort of storybook-style fable. To that end, it frequently recalls Roberto Benigni's thematically similar (and equally divisive) Life Is Beautiful.

Worth seeing?
In short, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an impressively directed and acted drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Recommended.

Film Trailer

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (12A)
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Content updated: 25/03/2019 16:42

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