The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This is far and away the most involving "Holocaust Film" I have ever seen. As I watched it, I could see that from a skeptical point of view, some of the details didn't add up, but the main character was so genuine and the story evolved in such a convincing way, that it really didn't matter! I KNOW when I'm watching a movie...smile...

Our story begins in wartime Germany as we observe four eight-year-old boys exuberantly racing down a busy city street, arms outstretched; they are emulating airplanes, laughing and dodging pedestrians. They are well dressed, well fed and oblivious to anything but their friendship and their joy at being alive.

Bruno, played by Asa Butterfield ("Son of Rambow") dashes into his own home where he can see preparations for an elaborate party are under way. It turns out that his father, a Gestapo officer played by David Thewlis (the "Harry Potter" series), has been promoted, and everyone will be celebrating this auspicious event. His mother, played by Vera Farmiga ("The Departed"), is a supportive wife, a loving mother, a glamorous hostess and a loyal German citizen, even though her own mother seems a bit skeptical and faintly disapproving. On the other hand, her father is enormously proud of his ambitious son-in-law.

Along with the promotion goes a move for the entire family. Because we are familiar with the history of WWII, we recognize their destination as the site of a notorious concentration camp. The Commandant's house is separated from the camp by a sylvan area, and our little hero is forbidden to play on that side of the property. Without his former companions, our little boy quickly becomes bored and unhappy. He spies on his older sister as she develops a crush on a handsome Nazi officer, played by Rupert Friend ("Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont"). He peeks over a transom and watches a movie his father screens for his superiors. We immediately recognize a "Potemkin Village" take on the Jewish incarceration, complete with happy well-fed children playing and well-dressed adults smiling and waving. He peers out an upper-story window and sees some distant farm buildings beyond the trees.

Naturally our little hero sneaks out into the woods so he can see for himself these unusual "farmers" who wear striped pajamas. He encounters a little boy on the other side of an electrified barbed wire barrier, and over the next few weeks they form a tentative friendship: our hero because he is terribly lonely and bored, the little prisoner because his new friend brings him food and is willing to talk with him. "Shmuel" is utterly baffled by his situation; he only knows his mother "went away" and doesn't know when she will return.

The main thing to remember is that we see things develop through the eyes of a naive eight-year-old boy, who has limitless energy and curiosity, but is handicapped by a very limited worldview. In fact, even his own mother is slow to awaken to her husband's real duties, but when she does, her formerly complacent world is shattered.

This movie is beautifully photographed, flawlessly acted (by an all-British cast, so everyone speaks with an English accent, NOT German - Whew!), and features involving secondary story lines that never intrude between us and our main character.

Please send me feedback when you see this movie, okay?