When we first meet Hannelore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her siblings, they are already on the move. It's spring 1945, Hitler is dead and the Nazis are on the run. Vati, her SS father, and Mutti, her mother, burn documents, taking anything of value they can, and pack everyone up and move out to a cabin the country. But allied forces are moving in, and it isn't long before Lore is left to lead her young charges to safety. Given money, items to bargain with and a plan of action by her mother before she voluntarily goes in to give herself up, Lore begins a cross country journey to bring everyone to their grandmother's house in Hamburg.
Complicating matters is the arrival of Thomas, a Jew, who provides for and protects Lore and her brothers and sisters, but with a vague idea of what he looks to gain out of the matter. He makes no secret of his attraction to Lore, but stops short of taking advantage of her. And while his care and concern over the younger ones is seemingly sincere, he's aloof enough that he could likely decide to go back out on his own at any moment. It speaks to the temporary and uneasy alliances of the time, and clearly Lore grapples with both his assistance and distance, complicated by her longstanding training that Jews can't be trusted.
And as lovely as all this is, it sometimes comes at the expense of continuing to explore the characters and their struggle with understanding and surviving everything that has monumentally changed around them. And this isn't helped by Shortland's cryptic approach, which almost completely internalizes Lore's turmoil, masking motivations that during key moments would've added greater impact, rather than giving them a slightly unsatisfying air of mystery.
While a film of great craft, strongly performed by the cast across the board, and particulary by the lead, newcomer Saskia Rosendahl, "Lore" never lets the audience in close enough for it to be a truly embraceable picture. It's certainly admirable, and we've rarely seen a WWII film approached from this angle, but one wishes "Lore" would let the audience in a bit closer. [B-]