An epic drama spanning the years 1939 to 1952, this is the gripping story of Simon (played as the adult by Bill Skarsgaard, son of Stellan, and named by the Berlin Film Festival Jury as one of the Shooting Stars of 2012 for this performance), who grows up in a loving working-class family on the outskirts of Gothenburg but always feels out of place. Intellectually gifted, he stubbornly persists in acquiring an education normally reserved for young men of the professional classes, much to the chagrin of his parents, who fear that he will become stuck up. He finally convinces his father to send him to an upper-class grammar school, where he meets Isak, the son of a wealthy Jewish bookseller who has fled Nazi persecution in Germany. Simon is dazzled by the books, art and music he encounters in the home of Isak's father Ruben (Jan Josef Leifers), which makes Simon long to know more about his own family background. Isak, on the other hand, draws comfort from learning to do something with his hands, helping Simon's dad (Stefan Godicke) make boats. When Isak faces trouble at home, he is taken in by Simon's family and the two households slowly merge, connecting in unexpected ways as war rages all over Europe. The film is based on the Swedish bestseller of the same name, written by Marianne Fredriksson. It offers a unique depiction of fate, destiny and free will and vividly portrays the situation for Jews in Sweden during World War II.
Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes
It's a warmly done family and personal drama that seems to cover familiar territory, but only up to a point and very much in its own way.Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, 10.18.2012
Simon and the Oaks has all the superficial elements of compelling drama but none of the interiority; it looks like a good movie without ever actually feeling like one.Michael Nordine, Village Voice, 10.09.2012
With its exhilarating World War II narrative and performances that touch notes intimate and grand, "Simon and the Oaks" has an exquisite, and epic, ache.David DeWitt, New York Times, 10.11.2012
Though it retains the narrative complexity of the Swedish bestseller on which it's based, WWII saga Simon and the Oaks never creates an emotional or intellectual throughline of its own.Ronnie Scheib, Variety, 10.11.2012