Star rating – 7/10
Kristin Scott Thomas is an actor who shines so brightly that almost anything she is involved in is bound to be quality work. This latest film is the true horrific story of how thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, via an uncomfortable and insanitary stay at the local velodrome, by the French authorities at the request of their Nazi occupiers.
It is told in two parts, with the terrible happenings in 1942 being acted out in all their shameful detail; whilst at the same time Scott Thomas plays a modern day journalist working on a magazine feature about what happened all those years ago to the Parisian Jews. And this juxtaposition doesn’t really work, as a plot device it is just too clunky. The historic scenes are brilliant and heart renching, and especially the acting of young Mélusine Mayanceo as Sarah, who tries to protect her little brother from being taken away, by persuading him to hide in a cupboard as a game. This action haunts her, and she desperately tries to put it right before it is too late. Mayanceo is a clearly talented actor, playing a difficult part for one so young. The scenes in the velodrome are appalling, and help to bring home the inhumane treatment of the Jewish people by the French authorities, and how desperate some of them were to avoid what they believed to be their inevitable fate.
The problem with the film is not that it uses a modern plot line to complement the historical parts, but that it crowds the contemporary scenes with twists and problems that do not add to the main message of the film, and in fact detract from it as they crowd it out. Kristin Scott Thomas, however, is her usual brilliant and totally beautiful self, and her gravitas saves it somewhat from being a disaster.