Movie Review – Sarah’s Key (2020)

Very few Americans are aware of one of the most shameful moments in French history which occurred during World War II in 1942. We all know about the holocaust in Germany when Jews were persecuted, separated from their loved ones, sent to death camps and finally to the gas chamber, but it is seldom discussed that this same horrific degradation happened in France also. Yes, French officials rounded up over 13,000 Jews and placed them in local camps before being sent to Germany.

Sarah’s Key is a fictionalized version of actual events as they were presented in novel form by French author Tatiana de Rosnay. We witness the arrest of a Jewish family in France. Ten-year-old Sarah managed to hide her 4-year-old brother Michel in a closet for which she retained a key before the officials took them away.

The most poignant scenes in the film show first the men taken from their families and the women and children are left behind. Then the women with cries of anguish and pain are taken from their children. These were difficult scenes to view. Almost comparable was the heart-wrenching scene where Sarah manages to escape from the camp and returns to rescue her brother Michel, who of course lies dead in the closet since Sarah told him to stay there until she came to get him.

Flash forward to 2009 when young journalist Julia Jarmond (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) receives an assignment to write a story about the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up of Jews in France back in 1942. Julia and her husband Bertrand move into an apartment once owned by Bertrand’s father who acquired it when the Jewish family Starzynski and their daughter Sarah were taken away.

Julia continues to research the story of the Starzynski family and learns that Sarah moved to America to start a new life, married and had a son named William. Sadly, Sarah committed suicide, despondent over the death of her brother Michel. Julia was able to locate Sarah’s son William living in Italy. Aiden Quinn, the only other cast member familiar to American audiences, plays the part of the adult William who was unaware of many of the details of his mother’s life, including her suicide. He did not know she was Jewish; he believed that she had been a French farm girl. Julia was able to give William some artefacts which she acquired from the family that had taken Sarah in, including Sarah’s key.

Sarah’s Key was not easy to follow as the characters were from three generations of people and it was difficult to keep up with the plot as it moved back and forth through the years. Also, the chaos, terror, violence and tension were unnerving, although necessary to portray the horror that is the reality of war in any generation.

To sum up, it is a movie that can be watched a couple of times and never get bored as it has all the ingredients to attain a classic status in the near future. While it is running in theatres, do watch it before it is taken off or you can simply download it from the site space mov if you don’t want to spend much to watch it on the big screen.



Julia Arostegi lives in California USA. She took Developmental Communication at the University of California and finished her studies in 2012. She is currently the managing director of California Magazine. She is also a blogger, content enthusiast and a photographer.