Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today




Movies for Grownups


Caucasian couple looking at a laptop computer together


Virgo - AARP Horoscope

Look at what your future holds if your birthday is between August 23 & September 22


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

Most Popular


Review: Sarah's Key

Kristin Scott Thomas stars in Gilles Paquet-Brenner's painful look at French shame

Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key, 2010

Kristin Scott Thomas stars in Sarah's Key. — Weinstein Company/Everett Collection

Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Rated PG-13,  Runtime: 111 mins.
Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance and Niels Arestrup

En español  |  I wish I could say you'll emerge from Sarah's Key inspired by the plucky little French girl who defies everyone and everything — up to and including the Nazi and Vichy regimes — to escape from a death camp and try to save her little brother … or that you'll be warmed by the steadfast determination of a modern-day reporter (Kristin Scott Thomas) who nearly lets her own life unravel as she relentlessly pursues the true story of what ultimately happened to Sarah.

But I'm betting you won’t find yourself taking refuge in either of those affirming attitudes. That's because Sarah's Key is a sad, sad movie, and almost defiantly so. A cloud of somber melancholy hangs over every word spoken, every dark-eyed glance. We don't for one second doubt the fate that awaits the thousands of French Jews who, in the film's opening minutes, are dragged from their Paris homes and locked up in an indoor arena. Even those who make tiny gestures of kindness to the condemned do so with a profound sense of futility, as if their small acts of humanity are being swallowed into an overwhelmingly dark, bottomless vortex of evil.

Does the story Sarah's Key need to be told? It's not, after all, a true story, although there were doubtless untold thousands of real-life Sarahs who perished in the season of madness that fell over Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner certainly thinks the world needs to be reminded of this awful historical chapter — and the reason is reflected in the young journalists with whom Scott Thomas's character works, privileged 20-somethings who have no inkling how French gentiles turned on their Jewish countrymen to sate the bloodlust of their occupiers.

"This was not the Nazis," she lectures her colleagues. "It was the French.

Sarah's Key aims to crack your skull with a truncheon and stomp on your blistered hands with a grinding leather boot. Good people suffer and die, bad people walk blithely away, and generations are left to make some sense of the senseless. Scott Thomas portrays well that whirl of confusion, as well as the accompanying suspicion that uncovering the truth will only rip open old wounds to no useful purpose. Her character suffers personal loss in her pursuit of the truth, and more than once others ask her if the cost is worth it. Even at the end, when a glimmer of hope is held out for the reporter's future happiness, with one quick glimpse of an empty baby stroller director Paquet-Brenner reminds us that all the things that bring joy can disappear in an instant. It's the shadows of sadness and loss that linger, and in that darkness we all must strike our own fleeting sparks of light.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Your Scoop on Cinema

Movies for Grownups is focused on films with distinct relevance to a 50-plus audience. In reviews, previews and interviews, we look for actors and themes that speak to the experiences of older moviegoers. Find more about us on:


100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

By Bill Newcott
January 2015

A treasure trove of delightfully offbeat recommendations for discerning moviegoers, from the beginnings of film right up the present.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save 15-30% on tickets to live Cirque du Soleil shows.

Regal Movies Popcorn and Soda, Member Benefits

Members can save $3 on any size popcorn and soft drink combo at Regal Cinemas.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points