“The Book Thief” celebrates love and life in one sequence and takes it all away in the next, only to come back around to give your heart yet another bruising, but it always does so with purpose, making the film a well-earned flood of emotion.
After being put up for adoption, Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) is sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in a pre-war German town. Heartbroken over the passing of her brother and her mother’s abandonment, Liesel has difficulty adjusting to her new life until Hans discovers her passion for books and takes it upon himself to teach her to read. Liesel warms up to the Hubermanns and befriends her neighbor Rudy (Nico Liersch), but as the pressure of the Nazi regime bears down on the town, Liesel finds it increasingly difficult to fall in line, especially when the Hubermanns agree to care for the son (Ben Schnetzer) of a Jewish man who saved Hans’ life in the First World War.
Even though Markus Zusak’s book comes with a wealth of cinematic material, “The Book Thief” is a particularly challenging piece to adapt to film. The book takes place over a lengthy period of time during which Liesel begins as a child and winds up a young woman. Nélisse is the film’s one and only Liesel, but thanks to excellent hair, makeup and costume choices, the filmmakers successfully bring her from innocent, frightened girl to knowing young adult over the course of the film’s 127-minute running time.
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