The Gist: In a Nazi concentration camp, selected prisoners are forced to dispose of the bodies of the murdered Jews that keep streaming into the camp. One of them, one day, sees a young boy's cadaver and, saying he's his son, decides to secretly have a Rabbi give him a proper Jewish burial.
Given the topic, I thought I would have really, really liked this movie. And I wanted to. I really did. The problem is that the story is just not believable.
We all know what was going on in those concentration camps, and Son of Saul, winner of a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, starts out very strong, dropping us into the action and keeping us locked into a sense of dread about what will happen next. Needless to say, what we do get to see is very disturbing, but so is what is left to one's imagination.
But when the protagonist suddenly decides to go to literally any lengths to ensure that the body of this young Jew is properly buried, in spite of the dangers and horrors those still living are constantly subjected to, is just too unbelievable. It might be morally uplifting for him to want to do that for the little kid, but not if he jeopardizes the always-hanging-by-a-thread lives of those around him.
The Bottom Line: I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but halfway through I had pretty much already checked out, so-to-speak, and was just waiting for a merciful end. The final grade is still pretty high because Son of Saul is a solid directorial debut for László Nemes, and Géza Röhrig turns in a fantastic performance. I just wish the script didn't veer so suddenly and deeply into unacceptable territory.