Lore (NR, probably R) (109 min.) — Cate Shortland's movie begins after the point at which most Holocaust-themed movies end, after Hitler is dead and concentration camp survivors are being rescued. The victims of Lore are actually a Nazi's five young children, who don't understand the war as anything more than something keeping their father away from home.
The eldest, a 14-year-old girl named Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) comes closest to comprehending but only through a child's patriotism, based upon what her parents teach. Lore has learned that Jews are to be distrusted and disliked but doesn't know the atrocities cast upon them in the name of the fatherland. The movie begins when news of Hitler's death and the Third Reich's fall reaches her home and sends her parents to their fates, leaving Lore to care for her brothers and sister.
With Allied forces advancing — propagandists warn any Germans they find will be killed — Lore and her siblings embark upon a 560-mile road trip to their grandmother's house and presumed safety. It's a harrowing journey for children through the Black Forest, with bloody corpses and desperate behaviors popping up like signposts along the way.
The children meet an unlikely guide who'll protect them: a young man named Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), who is also a Jew. Lore is both repelled by Thomas' heritage and fascinated by the feelings of sexual awakening he inspires. The younger children accept him easily as someone there to help. Gradually Lore's view of the war and her father's involvement becomes clearer, as it did for generations of Germans since.
Shortland tells this story in sparse dramatic terms, without many dramatic crescendos or shocking revelations. It's an understated terror that Lore and her siblings face, and understated lessons they learn along the way. The images captured by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw are more dreamy than nightmarish as if his camera — like the children — doesn't fully understand the dangers. (Tampa Theatre) B+
Steve Persall, Times movie critic