The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

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The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
This writer can’t remember witnessing a harder-hitting kids’ movie denouement than the one that closes this microcosm of middle-class German family life in WWII. A tender adaptation of John Boyne’s 2006 children’s novel, Mark Herman’s film views a world in conflict through the innocent eyes of eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), whose cosseted lifestyle as the son of a high-ranking Nazi officer (David Thewlis) is in stark contrast to the intolerable existence experienced by Europe’s Jewish populace.

At first we’re never quite sure what role Bruno’s father plays in the war, but we – and his increasingly suspicious wife (Vera Farmiga) – soon come to the conclusion that he has something to do with the distant concentration camp visible from the family’s back window. When Bruno spots a group of men toiling away in striped clothing, he’s sufficiently inquisitive to sneak over the garden gate for a peek.

It’s there, behind the camp’s electric fence, that Bruno first claps eyes on Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a shaven-headed prisoner of the same age. As a conversation develops between the children, they strike up a friendship – one that leads to a shockingly fateful decision. The frightfully English accents are way out of kilter for a film set in Europe, but you learn to live with it. Thewlis, too, seems ill-cast at first but, as the film takes on a more sombre, foreboding tone, he begins to relish the part. Ultimately, though, it’s the kids’ movie; both Butterfield and Scanlon deliver strong, poignant performances. Just prepare to leave the screening feeling somewhat depressed.

By: Derek Adams

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Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday September 12 2008
Duration: 94 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Mark Herman
Screenwriter: John Boyne, Mark Herman
Cast: David Thewlis
Asa Faringer
Jack H Wiener
Sheila Hancock
Vera Farmiga
Asa Butterfield
Jack Scanlon