This WWII story of a small-town “good German” girl named Liesel (played by French Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse) and her family rises above its “inspirational” formula outline on the strength of young Ms. Nélisse’s innocent beauty, the vivid character acting of the rest of the cast (especially Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush as her sympathetic foster parents), superior production values, and director Brian Percival’s fantastic-realist narrative structure. The idea – adapted by Michael Petroni from a novel by Markus Zusak – is that Liesel and her friends value books and human values but are forced to silently go along with the brutal Nazi state. They’re the quietest of rebels. That sort of story is easier written than filmed convincingly, but Percival (Downton Abbey), his cast, and crew pull it off with subtly emotive style and a humble, child’s-eye point of view (131 min.).
Director: Brian Percival
Producer: Karen Rosenfelt, Ken Blancato and Redmond Morris
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Levin Liam, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam, Kirsten Block, Carina Wiese, Hildegard Schroedter, Sandra Nedeleff and Mike Maas