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Between Kate Winslet and the (as yet) little known David Kross, who shovel coal into the veritable steamship that is “The Reader” and keep it running, full speed ahead.

Kross (who had to turn 18 before he could start filming) throws himself into the role of Michael Berg, a postwar German boy in his mid-teens who enters into a complex, carnal affair with Hannah, a woman 21 years his senior — with fierce abandon and feverish ardor. Winslet, for her part, brings both nuance and a defiant audaciousness to the role of Hannah: a solemn, taciturn woman who works as a tram conductress in Berlin.

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