As a reviewer, it is my responsibility to judge a film on its own merits, even if I’m disinclined to its genre. I admit it, though: When faced with the prospect of yet another film about the Holocaust, it’s hard to suppress a groan. It’s not that I’m immune to the unspeakable horrors of that chapter in human history; if anything, as the descendant of Polish Jews, I’m especially sensitive to them. But sitting through films on the topic has become miserable, especially because, well, there are just so many of them. Fair or not, at this point I expect a Holocaust movie to shed new insight in order to legitimize its existence.
The good news is that “The Notebook,” adapted from Agota Kristof’s 1986 bestseller Le Grand Cahier, does. It also, it should be noted, is about as far we’re ever going to get from the 2004 Ryan Gosling-Rachel McAdams weepie that shares its name. Set in 1944 Hungary, this “Notebook” frames the evil revealed by the region’s Nazi Occupation as the most treacherous of fairy tales: one that realizes our childhood fear that there really are no trustworthy grownups. (more…)