Story

Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is an eight-year-old boy. He lives in Berlin with his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) and his parents (Vera Farmiga and David Thewliss) at the time of World War II. His father is an SS officer. He receives a promotion to Commandant and must move his family to the country. Bruno is sad to leave his friends behind and finds the new house very isolating. He isn’t allowed outside his front garden. When he asks why the ‘funny’ farmers at the neighbouring farm wear pyjamas, his bedroom window is barricaded.

Bruno eventually finds his way to the back of the house and into the freedom of the forest beyond. There he meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). He is sitting behind a barbed wire fence, looking sad and bedraggled and wearing pyjamas. The two boys become friends, although Bruno can’t understand why Shmuel can’t come over to his side of the fence to play. They meet regularly, and Bruno takes food to share with Shmuel, who’s always hungry. When Shmuel’s father goes missing, Bruno promises to help Shmuel find him. Shmuel finds a pair of pyjamas for Bruno to wear, and Bruno digs under the fence. Together they go looking for Shmuel’s father. What happens next is frighteningly unexpected.

Themes

War; Holocaust; concentration camps

Violence

There is some violence in this movie. For example:

  • Karl, a soldier who often visits the house, has a violent temper. He often suddenly shouts and screams at the prisoners/servants.
  • Bruno’s mother becomes increasingly more disturbed by events. The children often witness their parents arguing.
  • Karl attacks one of the servants in the house and drags him out of the room. The servant is never seen again.
  • Karl yells at Shmuel when he’s at the house one time. Shmuel is doing some duties after Bruno has given him some food. When Shmuel is next seen, he has a very bloody eye.
  • Prisoners in the camp are forced to march in the driving rain. They are shouted at by guards with dogs and herded into a room where they’re ordered to remove their clothes for a shower. Guards are shown putting gas into the chambers. Screams are heard from the prisoners as they try to escape.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example, there are emotional scenes when Bruno disappears and his clothes are found at the fence. These scenes include screaming and crying.

From 8-13

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children in this age group. These scenes feature:

  • the appearance of the prisoners, who are very gaunt and dirty
  • the overcrowded and filthy conditions in the camp
  • the emotional reactions when Bruno disappears.

Over 13

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the movie’s themes – war, the Holocaust and concentration camps.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including drinking and smoking in the house.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a drama about the Holocaust, which is seen through the eyes of an innocent eight-year-old boy. The main message from this movie is the total injustice of hatred and prejudice against people because of their race or religion.

You might like to reinforce some of the movie’s values with your children. These values include:

  • being prepared to question values you believe to be wrong
  • not believing everything you are told
  • seeing people for who they are rather than how they are labelled.

This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss certain attitudes and behaviours with your children. For example, you could talk about how easily people can slip into appalling and inhuman treatment of their fellow human beings and the fact that this is still happening today.