In 2008, we saw a variety of cinematic life forms from the United Kingdom emerge on U.S. screens, and if, when taken together, films like Hunger, Mister Foe, Man on Wire, and Son of Rambow don’t necessarily represent a high-water mark in output for the nation’s cinema, they at least portend some kind of new guard ready to pick up the mantle for a film culture muddied by laddishness and bland genre aping. Add in the reemergence of old hand Mike Leigh, who quietly dropped another great one in the form of Happy-Go-Lucky, and Of Time and the City, a stunning foray into documentary by the great, enigmatic Terence Davies, and you have the makings of a decent year for Tories in the cinema.
Sadly, these films will most likely be overshadowed by a pair of tastefully distasteful Holocaust features coming from classically Hallström-esque middleweight Brits Mark Herman and Stephen Daldry. Both Herman’s The Boy with the Striped Pajamas and Daldry’s The Reader feature ill-considered accents (why it remains acceptable for screen Nazis to speak the Queen’s English will forever escape me; point here goes to Daldry for tacking his actors closer to the source), vanilla Europudding casts, and, oddly, both focus squarely on the effects of the Holocaust not on the Jews, but on the Germans. And both have found homes stateside with the Weinstein Company, obviously making a play for year-end dominance with fare they’ve made their business stewarding. Luckily for Brit-nationalism, one could argue that both films, by the very character of their financing and production, efface their creators’ origins (and imprints) almost entirely.
Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert's review of The Reader.