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The two boys live a parallel, yet drastically dissimilar existence.
The fence, symbolic of the separation produced by hate, however, is easily circumvented by those who don’t know how to hate yet.
Despite a seemingly endless number of films about the Holocaust, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” carves out its own niche in the genre. This simple refutation of social expectations is at the heart of the film, and is a large part of its appeal.
Bruno’s naïveté is one of the film’s most heart-wrenching yet endearing aspects, and Butterfield portrays his character with the poise and adeptness of a much older actor.
Despite an impressive cast of British actors, including David Thewlis—who plays Severus Snape in the more recent “Harry Potter” movies—Butterfield’s performance is the most striking.
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However, the various subplots and Bruno’s internal struggle keep the film from dragging too much.
“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” seems somewhat muted and slow for a Holocaust movie, but it’s this same slowness that makes the moments of intense emotion even more powerful.
Bruno brings Shmuel food smuggled from his kitchen and the pair finds ways to play ball and checkers despite the electric fence between them.
Bruno is confused by the anti-Semitic propaganda spouted by his tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton), and his older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie), and doesn’t associate his new friend with the portrayal of Jews in the books he’s forced to read.