The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)

Anna Paquin as Irena Sendler in The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)

Irena's Huge Heart

Three things came to mind whilst watching "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" and the first is that there is no denying that the Irena Sendler story and what she did in helping Jewish children escape the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII is a powerful one. Nothing can be taken away from the risks she undertook but the second thing which comes to mind is whilst the story of Sendler comes across it comes across in a typical movie fashion, by that I mean we have dialogue which feels too Hollywood and whilst we are made aware of the dark times the grim reality feels softened to make it less unsettling. But the third thing is that even though "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" feels like an Americanized version it works and it is the sort of movie I wish they had shown in history lessons because I learned more from watching this than any text book and it gave me a yearning to know more.

So as already mentioned "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" is based on the true story of Irena Sendler who to be honest I had never heard of before spotting this movie on late at night on a lesser known channel. And Sendler's story is a powerful one as she led a group of Polish men and women in secretly smuggling young Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto in the hope that they could start a new life away from the trouble. Not only did this put her under threat from the Nazi's who eventually discovered what she was doing and tortured her but also gave her battles with the Jewish families who feared that letting their children leave to live with non Jews would rob them of their faith.

Marcia Gay Harden in The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)

That is just a brief synopsis of what goes on in "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" and there is a lot more from Sendler's initial work with Social Services and trying to protect her ill mother from her work rescuing the Jewish children. It is compelling and from start to finish you are drawn into this amazing story of compassion and bravery which without wanting to sound cheap hits a powerful and stomach turning ending. As I mentioned to start with I learned more about the war and the plight of the Jewish people watching this than I did from any text book and you see the emotional conflict that they faced in giving their children a chance by allowing them to be smuggles out. You also see the horror when it comes to the Nazi's start deporting the Jewish people from the Ghetto's to the concentration camps.

But here is my one slight criticism because in turning Sendler's story into a movie elements sort of feel softened. There were numerous instances of dialogue which just didn't feel natural with an almost Hollywood melodrama feel to it with it being overly emotional. And then there is the grimness of reality which whilst it suggests things again at times the grimness feels a little too softened although nothing prepares you for when we see Irena taken by the Nazi's and tortured, a scene which is brutal, grim and scary.

Now much of why "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" is compelling is purely down to Sendler's amazing story but you also have to give credit to Anna Paquin who does a brilliant job of delivering this compassionate character. Paquin plays Irena with so much restraint and even when she is delivering what to me feels unreal dialogue she does so with conviction rather than over dramatically. Paquin is also supported by some good performances from recognizable stars such as Marcia Gay Harden, Goran Visnjic and Steve Speirs.

What this all boils down to is that "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" is a well made adaptation of the Irena Sendler story which gets across what she did during WWII. It does have its faults but overall it does what it sets out to do and that is tell Sendler's amazing story whilst also getting across how the Jews were treated during the war and the problems they faced.