The Reader


Mixed or average reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    The Reader can feel stilted and abstract: the film's only flesh-and-blood characters spend half the movie separated. But its emotional impact sneaks up on you. The Reader asks tough questions, and, to its credit, provides no easy answers.
  2. Provocatively intentioned, The Reader is a movie worth seeing - the kind of film you'll think about for days afterward. But when all is said and done, you're likely to wonder why the impact wasn't greater still.
  3. The film is neither about the Holocaust nor about those Germans who grappled with its legacy: it's about making the audience feel good about a historical catastrophe that grows fainter with each new tasteful interpolation.
  4. The cast is superb: especially Kate Winslet, who transcends, by far, the limits of her character's narrow soul. Yet The Reader remains schematic, and ultimately reductive.
  5. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    The epitome of middle-brow 'quality' drama -- admirable within its limitations, but Bernard Schlink's Oprah Winfrey Book Club-approved book wasn't exactly literature, as this isn't exactly cinema.
  6. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Stephen Daldry's film is sensitively realized and dramatically absorbing, but comes across as an essentially cerebral experience without gut impact.
  7. 50
    Like many narrative filmmakers who walk on their tippy-toes when dealing with the Holocaust, neither Daldry nor Hare seems eager to make the material his own.
  8. 50
    The Reader feels weighty, all right; but it's an unsatisfying kind of weight, and Fiennes' presence, as the grown-up Michael, doesn't help much.
  9. So why, despite everyone's best efforts, does all this bigness seem so small and unfocused and simply not up to the task?
  10. A film made with high aspirations and more than the usual commitment but one that, after an arresting beginning, changes into a passive rumination.
  11. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Faithful both to the novel's plot and to its higher aspirations. This is not an entirely good thing. On the other hand -- and somewhat surprisingly -- it is not an entirely bad thing.
  12. Can a formidable actress redeem a pile of solemn erotic kitsch? Kate Winslet answers that one as honestly as she can in the film version of Bernhard Schlink's 1995 novel "The Reader."
  13. 50
    After a sensuous introductory act, The Reader descends into a series of dismaying contradictions regarding the moral toxins of the Holocaust - which still pollute postwar Germany.
  14. The Reader is ponderously self-important and smugly Socratic, brimming with unfinished sentences and pregnant pauses; if a single character would only say what he thinks, the movie would be over in 30 minutes
  15. Whether the source material or Hare's tinkering is to blame for the fact that the story keeps the viewer at arm's length, the end result is still the same: A film that's technically superb, yet still falls short of true greatness.
  16. 40
    For those who think of cinema as dramatic roughage, The Reader should prove sufficiently indigestible.
  17. It appears that the filmmakers have taken Hannah Arendt's notion of the "banality of evil" way too literally.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 147 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 45
  2. Negative: 6 out of 45
  1. HillaryP.
    Jan 10, 2009
    To KL before ragging on this movie for the full frontal nudity of a teenager, maybe you should do some research, the "teenager" was born To KL before ragging on this movie for the full frontal nudity of a teenager, maybe you should do some research, the "teenager" was born 7/90, making him 18 and of legal age of consent to film what ever he I urge you to judge the film on its actual content and not your uninformed opinion. This is fiction people!! Full Review »
  2. May 30, 2016
    Extremely good movie. I tend to watch more adventure, action, thriller, etc., genre, but every so often I find a great drama that is justExtremely good movie. I tend to watch more adventure, action, thriller, etc., genre, but every so often I find a great drama that is just incredible.

    Watch it online for free:
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 31, 2015
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. The Reader dealt with the Holocaust without actually dealing with it. It took an individual experience and skated around the issues with its own, seemingly less powerful one. It had the potential to be more than a story, but instead it took the lesser way out – avoiding the true pain with the shame of a former Nazi's literacy.

    The Holocaust was so huge, but the problem facing Hanna (Kate Winslet) is so trivial in comparison. She had the opportunity to free herself from prison, yet her embarrassment kept her in. This is a storyline that was supposed to evoke emotion, yet I found myself not caring at all. I should have been conflicted, but instead I didn't care about her fate – much like the older Michael (Ralph Phiennes) didn't seem to either. There was passion and intrigue in the state of the affair, but it fizzled as soon as the lovers were separated. At times I felt like we were missing out by not seeing these events play out; we just saw the aftermath.

    Illiteracy is a real problem – one that definitely should be addressed, but perhaps not in a way that erases the struggles of those hurt in the concentration camps? Hanna seemed to prey on the prisoners the same way she preyed on Michael. Rewarding them for reading to her – albeit in much different ways. She was a predator, and in the end I didn't have any emotion towards her. I should have felt disgust, perhaps even sympathy, but it fell flat. "She never intended to leave," and I can't bring myself to care.
    Full Review »