Mixed or average reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: Jenni Miller
    Winslet deserves an Oscar for her amazing performance.
  2. The Reader is significant because -- like another film opening today, "Valkyrie" -- it asks us to see not just the Jews but the whole German people as victims of the Holocaust, and to view Nazism as more a product of explicable ignorance than inexplicable evil.
  3. 91
    Kross and Winslet's intense performances and Daldry's deliberately placid control of tone make the material work as a love (and hate) story as well as a metaphor.
  4. 88
    The crucial decision in The Reader is made by a 24-year-old youth, who has information that might help a woman about to be sentenced to life in prison, but withholds it. He is ashamed to reveal his affair with this woman. By making this decision, he shifts the film's focus from the subject of German guilt about the Holocaust and turns it on the human race in general.
  5. 78
    There is a sense of ambiguity at the core of The Reader that makes it all the more brutal, all the more honest in its deflowering of love and what one imagines love ought to be instead of what it too often is.
  6. 75
    Winslet's fierce, unerring portrayal goes beyond acting, becoming a provocation that will keep you up nights.
  7. With this film Daldry, previously the director of "Billy Elliot" and "The Hours," proves himself the screen's reigning master at showing passion thwarted or repressed.
  8. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Though the effort is uneven, it's a well-acted romance that becomes a less compelling courtroom drama.
  9. 75
    The Reader is closer to a near miss than a rousing success but, on balance, this is still worth seeing for those who enjoy complexity and moral ambiguity within the context of a melodrama.
  10. This coming-of-age portion is the less interesting half, though it has the more interesting Michael. We have seen Fiennes play an emotionally detached introvert so often that he brings nothing new to the role, apt though he is.
  11. 75
    An immaculately crafted, splendidly acted drama with a message at its core of forgiveness and humanity. It's also blatantly manipulative, and, upon reflection, rather banal. In other words, it's the epitome of Oscar bait and almost serves as a step-by-step guide to creating such a beast.
  12. Fiennes brings to the role a shimmering subtlety.
  13. An engaging period drama. But German postwar guilt is not the most winning subject matter for the holiday season.
  14. It is only, frankly, the strength of Winslet's performance that rises above conventional surroundings and makes The Reader the experience it should be.
  15. 70
    Bernhard Schlink's highly regarded novel "The Reader" receives a graceful, absorbing screen adaptation by director Stephen Daldry.
  16. 70
    The revelation that Winslet’s character is a war criminal is the centerpiece of The Reader, but surrounding the Holocaust morality play is another story that’s more modestly scaled and, in this age of unashamed romance between older women and younger men, more contemporary.
  17. The film is notable for its nice performances, its handsome photography, and its very active music. If the preceding praise sounds generic, so is the movie.
  18. 63
    The Reader doesn't do enough to explore the guilt and betrayal the adult Michael feels over the acts of his elders.
  19. 63
    Although the script works in a couple of pages of collegiate-level ethical debate about "the question of German guilt," what the movie is really interested in is the question of German sex. So think of it as "Schindler's Lust."
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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."
  26. A film made with high aspirations and more than the usual commitment but one that, after an arresting beginning, changes into a passive rumination.
  27. Reviewed by: Jason Buchanan
    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.
  28. 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.
  29. So why, despite everyone's best efforts, does all this bigness seem so small and unfocused and simply not up to the task?
  30. 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
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 118 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 40
  2. Negative: 5 out of 40
  1. Jan 11, 2014
    I would only say: bad, bad movie. The protagonist isn't able to act, and the screenplay was atrocious and very bad. The main theme was trivial and repetitive. There are many other better movies about this theme and I think The Reader isn't absolutely brilliant or good one. Bye! Full Review »
  2. May 24, 2013
    The Reader is an interesting little film. I love dramas and Stephen Daldry is one of my favorite directors (The Hours, Billy Elliot). The reason I say it's interesting is because it features some really great elements, but I don't think it's a "great" film. It's a gorgeous movie, Winslet is great (even though it's not her best performance imo), David Kross is surprisingly good, Daldry's direction is solid, and the supporting cast is quite nice, but overall the film suffers from some pacing problems and it felt a bit emotionally cold to me. I was reminded a lot of the English Patient, only The Reader isn't quite as epic or effective. Still worthy of a recommendation. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. Full Review »
  3. Apr 27, 2013
    It is hard to like a film that is so depressing and dull at the same time with characters less interesting than blank wallpaper. The film doesn't give you anything to care about or notice besides the characters being naked half the time in the movie. Full Review »