It’s not easy to find a new approach to the World War II movie, and the Dutch drama Winter in Wartime doesn’t bother trying; it features lots of familiar elements from decades of cinema about Nazis and the Holocaust, but it tells its story in an exciting and heartfelt enough way to mostly succeed. Based on a popular Dutch young-adult novel, the movie follows teenage Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) in the last days of the war, when he comes across an injured British soldier (Jamie Campbell Bower) hiding out in the woods beyond his small town. The son of the town’s mayor, Michiel has witnessed both cooperation with German forces (by his trying-to-remain-neutral dad) and clandestine resistance efforts, which are what lead him to the soldier.
Michiel’s maturation through witnessing the horrors of war is pretty standard stuff, and the movie looks away from the more extreme atrocities of the time period. But Lakemeier does a good job of portraying Michiel’s conflicted feelings, and the way that simple adolescent emotions (like jealousy when Michiel’s attractive older sister starts spending time with the soldier) get mixed up with life-or-death decisions. Winter in Wartime doesn’t reinvent the World War II drama, but it doesn’t have to; it works solidly within the genre with affecting if predictable results.