Assuming that the horrors of the holocaust are well known to its audience, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas concentrates on those who — while close to the horror — knew nothing or failed to find out. Bruno, the lonely eight-year-old son of a concentration commandant, might be forgiven his ignorance, but forgiving his mother is much harder. So, perhaps aware of this, part way through the film we’re exposed to remade scenes from The Fuhrer gives the Jews a City, to convince us that everybody did not know what was going on.
Bruno is certainly convinced, despite his friendship with a boy he’s stumbled across and who he meets at the edge of the camp fence. His friendship with the boy is credible, but the film struggles to engage us. There is no real journey, just the boredom of being a child with nothing to do.
We never real care for Bruno, so when The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas reaches it’s powerful conclusion — a conclusion that largely redeems it — we find that we are not rooting for the boy, but wishing a cruel and unusual punishment upon his parents.