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Overcoming the sins of the father — and the fatherland

Lore, played by Saskia Rosendahl, center, must lead her siblings to safety in war-ravaged Germany immediately after surrender to the Allies. <<© Music Box Films>>

What if the people who loved you turned out to be monsters? Could you change your worldview to survive in this new order? Or would the truth end up swallowing you whole?
    Fourteen-year-old Lore (Saskia Rosendahl: Für Elise) lives an idyllic life in World War II Germany. Blonde and blue-eyed, she’s the picture of youthful innocence, still more child than woman as she romps through fields in suspendered skirts and Heidi braids.
    A high-ranking SS officer, Papa has instilled Nazi principles in his children, respect for family, pride of country, love for the Führer — and hate for Jews. They are all assured of Germany’s victory over the Allied forces. So Lore is shocked and heartbroken to learn that the Führer is dead.
    The Americans are sweeping the country, and they capture Lore’s father. Lore’s mother sends her off with a handful of cash and jewelry, ordering her to take her sister, twin brothers and the baby across Germany to their grandmother’s house by the sea.
    Now responsible for her four younger siblings, Lore must navigate a new and horrifying Germany. Trains don’t work, foreigners control the roads and borders, food is scarce, violence is prevalent and poverty and death are everywhere.
    She also learns just what the Nazis have been doing. Photographs from the concentration camps line every public space, shaming the Germans for their crimes. Many don’t believe the stories of the camps and the deaths; they think the Americans staged it in Hollywood. Lore is fiercely loyal to Germany and her family, but with each step through her war-torn country her doubt grows.
    As young Lore, Rosendahl is a revelation. Sweet and innocent one moment and full of rage and pain the next, she seemingly ages years in an hour and a half.
    Directed by Australian Cate Shortland (Somersault), the film adds to the chaos of Lore’s situation by incorporating elements of the young girl’s budding sexuality and burgeoning adulthood. Lore’s story becomes a metaphor for the mental and physical awakening teens experience, questioning their parents’ beliefs as they cross the threshold of adolescence.
    A painful coming-of-age tale, Lore offers a fresh perspective on humanity. The children of Nazis weren’t to blame for their parents’ crimes, but how did they reconcile their happy, seemingly normal lives with the acts of their elders? How do you comprehend that a beloved parent is a war criminal?
    Lore is at once a fantastical fairy tale and a deeply relatable parable. Get in the car and drive to D.C. or Baltimore to catch this movie. It’s worth every penny.

Great Drama • NR • 109 mins.