Film Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Director Brian Percival’s cinematic adaptation of The Book Thief is engaging and entertaining. The film delivers a captivating tale with a rich historical context.

Young Liesel is sent to live with a foster family in Germany during World War II. Whilst there, Liesel discovers a love of reading that will transform the lives of those around her…

The Book Thief is a successful drama thanks to its strong writing. The main characters in the film are well developed, relationships appear natural, and situations are believable. The use and choice of narrator is an extremely effective tool in framing The Book Thief as a story, and serving as a reminder of the vulnerability of the characters.

With a child protagonist, The Book Thief counterbalances youthful discovery with a very real and harrowing period of history. The World War II setting is absolutely essential to the narrative. There are aspects of the film that are rather dark, reflecting the time and actuality of the historical setting. Michael Petroni’s adaptation of Marcus Zusak’s novel does not shy away from revealing the horrors of war or the insidiousness the Nazi regime. Yet at the same time there is a positive story of a young girl finding friendship in dark times and discovering a passion that shapes her life.

For viewers that have not read the book, Brian Percival’s film is furnished with a sense of trepidation. This is partly due to the choice of narrator reminding the audience of the ephemeral nature of existence. However, it is also thanks to the dangerousness of the setting that viewers will be concerned about the fate of the protagonists. The beauty of The Book Thief is that it compels its audience to care.

Performances in the film are great, with Sophie Nélisse strong as Liesel. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are well cast as Liesel’s foster parent. Some special effects are a little inauthentic, but thankfully these are not used too often.

The Book Thief is a wonderful story which is likely to absorb viewers throughout.