Kate Winslet is on top form in The Reader, a compelling story of love and shame, guilt and reconciliation set in the shadow of the Holocaust. She plays tram conductor Hannah, a woman with a dark past who has a taboo-breaking affair with 15-year-old schoolboy Michael (played as an emotionally withdrawn adult by, who else, Ralph Fiennes) in post-WWII Berlin. Before they make love, bookish Michael reads to her from classics of world literature, but following a blissful summer, Hannah suddenly disappears from Michael’s life, leaving him stunned and heartbroken. Why did she leave?
The reason only becomes apparent eight years later when Michael, now a law student attending a war crimes trial, encounters Hannah again and struggles to come to terms with the past. Directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted by David Hare, the team behind The Hours, this is a classy adaptation of German author Bernhard Schlink’s worldwide bestseller. A thoughtful movie about moral dilemmas that’s bound to provoke debate, it displays intelligence and sensitivity on both sides of the camera. Kate may get her kit off for the lad, before donning a latex body suit in later scenes to portray Hannah in her sixties, but she reveals far more than skin in a searching, Oscar-worthy performance that ranks among the finest of her career. (Released 2nd January)