The Book Thief is considered by many to be their favourite novel, and the film that derives from it is a worthy choice as one of the cinema’s best-loved movies. It is a story that begins calmly, unfolding in Germany before bombs start to destroy towns during World War Two, and benefits from an elite cast and superb acting. In particular is the luminous performance of Sophie Nelisse, a child adopted by a German couple, played by Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush.
The young girl, Liesel, is illiterate, but she is tempted to steal a book that survives a wild night of Nazi book burning. She keeps the slim volume as a hidden treasure, and is gradually taught how to read by her warm-hearted adoptive father. The arrival of a young Jewish boy in flight from the Gestapo puts them in peril, but Liesel’s friendship with the boy transforms all their lives while allied planes nightly bomb their district.
Geoffrey Rush has played a number of memorable roles in the past few years, and is again brilliant as the amiable father, fond of the girl and protective of her despite his recalcitrant wife’s initial hostility. The cast makes this film thoroughly worthwhile; the foster parents are well matched, Rush an Oscar winner, Watson twice nominated for the best actress award. They are at their talented best and they had to be, to match the charm and extraordinary performance of Sophie Nelisse.
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