You may not buy into actors playing Nazis with high-toned Brit accents, but the power of this Holocaust tale sneaks up and floors you. Writer-director Mark Herman has adapted John Boyne’s novel with admirable restraint.
Eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) isn’t pleased when he and older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) are forced to leave their friends in Berlin and settle in a remote area where Bruno’s commandant father (David Thewlis) has been stationed. The kids and their mother (Vera Farmiga) believe the fence they see outside their window encloses a farm, not a concentration camp. Bruno even ventures out of bounds and meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), the boy in striped pajamas behind the fence. They develop a dangerous, covert friendship with devastating results.
Delicate allegorical business is being transacted here — a realization of evil seen from a child’s point of view. The premise doesn’t excuse lapses in logic (the boys would have been spotted instantly), but the power of the story and the performances — young Butterfield amazes — is indisputable.