"It's a Holocaust movie - for kids!" That's how I described The Boy in the Striped Pajamas to a friend, and her look of horror was probably close to the expression that hit my own face for parts of the screening.
A seriously miscalculated period piece by writer-director Mark Herman, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas gives much of its time to the limited yet imaginative viewpoint of eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield).
When his military father (David Thewlis) gets a new command post, Bruno moves with his mother (Vera Farmiga) and older sister to a house nearby. Though he's not supposed to play in the back woods, he ventures there anyway, and meets a new friend in pajamas who lives on the other side of a tall fence.
From the adult perspective, it's WWII, Father's a Nazi and he's running a concentration camp. And no matter how many bolted doors and boarded-up windows are put between Bruno and the truth, the boy's going to find it out the hard way.
At least it's a different kind of Holocaust story, and a committed cast is a plus. But Herman is ruthless in his manipulation, and his film will leave you aching for the freedom and head-clearing therapy of a long walk in the sun.
"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"