It took me a while to write this review.
That is not to say the film is bad. It is a great film. Like Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List (though not as great as those are), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of the hardest films I have ever watched.
The film centers on a German family of four: The parents (David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga), their daughter Maria (Cara Horgan) and their 8-year-old son Bruno (Asa Butterfield, showing his acting talent even before he was the title character in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo). They have to move to the country side, where Bruno will be away from his friends, assigned to a tutor (who teaches what nonsense Hitler wanted taught), and nothing to do but read his adventure books (His sister, though caring, begins to shy away from childhood).
All this changes after two things he notices. The first is when he notices a servant being treated oddly in his house hold. The second is after he goes exploring one day (while his mother is not looking), and meets a boy named Leon (Zac Mattoon O’Brien). As the audience, we know what Leon’s situation is, and it is heartbreaking. The true success of the film is that Bruno begins to learn the true situation he is in during the course of the film, and brings about an ending I would never dream of ruining. All I will say is I was pausing the film many times to make sure I was emotionally ready for the film’s ending. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
Parents, the film is obviously not for the faint of heart. The PG-13 rating is rightly asserted here: there is not much violence as you may think, only thematic material (and some swearing). If you have a middle schooler who is learning about this horrible time in human history, this may be a good film to start with. It may not be what actually happened, but it does show that even in the worst of times, friendship and love is never forgotten.
Overall: Four Stars