Young Liesel (Sophie Nélisse – Ésimésac) goes to live with some foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in Germany during World War 2. Once there, she secretly steals books set to be burnt by the Nazi’s and finds solace in their words.
Adapted from Markus Zusak’s influential novel, The Book Thief is an accomplished translation to the big screen. Its fundamental success lies with an ensemble of acting talent who all pull together to make this such an involving film. When you have good actors, it elevates any story to the big screen and they all help give The Book Thief a nice platform to captivate an audience.
An impressive leading turn from Sophie Nélisse marks this as a heartfelt story with plenty of emotional pull. She works very well against the always reliable duo of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson too. Nico Liersch’s portrayal of Rudy, Liesel’s best friend and would-be first love, is especially sweet and affecting. There’s even a cameo by Heike Makatsch (Alan Rickman’s love interest in Love Actually) as Liesel’s birth mother.
The film needlessly becomes distracted by Roger Allam’s imposing narration as ‘Death’. This is, however, a problem with the source material more than anything else. Allam handles his duties well and the thoughts of death are quite pivotal in the written form. The narration works well to set the mood and embrace key moments of the plot. But in a movie this feels slightly awkward and understandably doesn’t couple to the tones of realism the rest of the film strives towards.
The Book Thief is a very well made film with an affecting and heartfelt story. Full of breakout performances and focusing on the lives of everyday people during the war, The Book Thief paints a very involving picture that will stay with you for quite some time afterwards.