I'm taking a break from reviewing books to review a movie! I feel it's appropriate because it's about a reader - two readers to be exact. Just to be clear, I know the movie was based on a book but I haven't read the book, so this is only a review of the movie.
First of all. . . Kate Winslet is brilliant and deserves whatever award she wins. She's amazing. From the way she walked, to how she hunched her shoulders, and scrubbed herself in the bath, she fit the character. I was completely moved by her performance.
Second. . . This movie isn't for everyone. Within the first 15 minutes or so there is nudity, a lot of it. It continues throughout the first half of the movie. It's rated "R" and should have been. Don't bring your kids!
Third. . . There may be spoilers ahead so if you don't want to know anything about the story, stop reading and go see the movie or read the book!
The story is about Michael. He is fifteen when the movie opens and he begins an affair with Kate Winslet's character, Hannah, who is in her 30's. While their relationship is sexual, it's more than that. Hannah asks Michael to read to her and as their relationship progresses, he reads her several novels. He is unaware that she can't read.
When Hannah gets promoted to an office job, she leaves because she knows she can't do the job if she can't read. Michael is devastated by her leaving but he moves on.
The next time we see Michael, he is a law student and is sitting in on a trial. Hannah is on trial, accused of Nazi war crimes from her time as a SS guard. Michael goes on quite an emotional journey. He is torn between the woman he loved and the fact that she participated in horrible crimes.
The rest of the story is about Hannah's life in prison and Michael's life as an adult, a lawyer, and a father. I don't want to give anything else away but it is very touching, and very sad.
I think the thing that hit me the most, beyond the Holocaust reminders, was the fact that Hannah was a reader, who couldn't read. I can't even imagine not being able to read. How tragic to have such a love for stories, for great literature, and not being able to read it. Michael may have been the "Reader" but so was Hannah, even if she wasn't doing the actual reading.
To sum it up, I think it's a movie that I would recommend to the right people. After reading other reviews, some were so negative that I had to wonder if we watched the same movie. It just goes to show that opinions differ. Some couldn't get past the nudity, and some couldn't get past the idea that a fifteen year old had an affair with a 35 year old. I can understand those arguments. It would have been easy to make the character 18. It would have been easy to avoid the nudity. The movie probably wouldn't have suffered for it. I just urge you to take it for what it is and get to the heart of the story.