When Parisian-based journalist Julia researches for a project on the infamous Vel D’Hiv round-up of French Jews in 1942, she inadvertently discovers her own link to this period of history. The apartment that her and husband are intending to move to, was in fact obtained by her husband’s family after the Starzynski family were dispossessed during the round-up.
Julia investigates the history of the apartment, and discovers the names of two Starzynski children who had been resident there, Sarah and Michel. Interspersed with modern-day Paris, the film then follows Sarah’s story of the day when the police rounded them up. In order to save her little brother, she locks him in the hidden cellar, warning him to be as quiet as he can. Clutching the key, she becomes desperate to rescue her brother after days being held in the Velodrome. She is moved to a camp whilst her parents are moved to Auschwitz and her obsession with rescuing Michel grows. With help from a sympathetic guard, she escapes with a friend, but they are still some miles from Paris…
Kristen Scott-Thomas is excellent as the doggedly determined Julia, eager to expose the history of the flat, and whilst doing so, jeopardising her relationship with her husband and his family, who appear to know more about Sarah’s story than originally realised. It’s classy, beautifully shot and incredibly poignant. One of the better films of 2011.