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Can a adorable, freckle-faced four-year-old save an entire movie? Sadly no, but little Adam Monty's charm helps offset Laura Fraser's grating lead performance and this film's clumsy handling of a very serious subject. Antwerp, 1972: Chaja Silberschmidt (Fraser) has come of age in the shadow of her parents' pasts; her mother (Marianne Sagebrecht) and father...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Can a adorable, freckle-faced four-year-old save an entire movie? Sadly no, but little Adam Monty's charm helps offset Laura Fraser's grating lead performance and this film's clumsy handling of a very serious subject. Antwerp, 1972: Chaja Silberschmidt (Fraser) has come

of age in the shadow of her parents' pasts; her mother (Marianne Sagebrecht) and father (Maximilian Schell) both survived Auschwitz. Mr. Silberschmidt has become obsessed with finding the two suitcases full of personal effects he buried somewhere in Antwerp shortly before he was deported; for him,

they've come to embody the past and everything he's lost. Mrs. Silberschmidt, meanwhile, has little patience for her husband's memories and would like to forget the Holocaust ever happened. And for her part, Chaja doesn't want to hear any of it; she's "fed up with this whole Jewish thing."

Chaja's inevitable change of heart comes after a family friend (Chaim Topol) gets her a job as a nanny for the Kalmans, a conservative Hassidic family headed by fearsome patriarch (Jeroen Krabbe, also making his directing debut) and his dutiful wife (Isabella Rossellini). While put off by the

strict rules governing Hassidic life, Chaja is instantly enchanted by little Simcha Kalman (Monty), an adorable carrot-top who has never spoken. Somehow, through her devotion to Simcha and hearing Mr. Kalman describe his own experiences during the Holocaust, Chaja learns greater tolerance for the

Hassidim and her own Jewish identity. Krabbe, best known for his work Paul Verhoeven's SOLDIER OF ORANGE and THE FOURTH MAN, focuses on the role of suffering in Jewish identity, and his film's uncomfortable implication is that only after people have known true grief of their own can they truly

understand with the Jewish experience. Unfortunately, Krabbe's characters are obvious caricatures, and his attitude toward the Hassidim offers little personal insight.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Can a adorable, freckle-faced four-year-old save an entire movie? Sadly no, but little Adam Monty's charm helps offset Laura Fraser's grating lead performance and this film's clumsy handling of a very serious subject. Antwerp, 1972: Chaja Silberschmidt (Fr… (more)

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