Australian author Markus Zusak, screenwriter Michael Petroni and Geoffrey Rush can take a bow- and maybe look forward to recognition at the Oscars.

Their collaboration on Brian Percival’s film of Zusak’s novel The Book Thief, adapted by Petroni, has been warmly reviewed at the world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival, where it got a standing ovation.

The WWII-set drama opens in Australia in January and in the US via 20th Century Fox on November 8. The plot follows a young girl (Sophie Nélisse) who seeks refuge in the world of books while her foster parents (Rush and Emily Watson) hide a young Jewish man (Ben Schnetzer) in the basement of their modest German home. First published in 2006, the novel spent 230 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.’s Pete Hammond judged Rush gives another Oscar-worthy performance as an ordinary German who has not yet bought into the Nazi regime, which would add to add to his best actor award in Scott Hicks’ Shine.

“I see definite Academy appeal in this story (beautifully directed by first-time feature filmmaker Brian Percival of Downton Abbey) if Fox campaigns it smartly and gets it seen,” Hammond opined.

Variety’s Dennis Harvey observed the book has been brought to the screen with “quiet effectiveness and scrupulous taste by director Brian Percival and writer Michael Petroni.”

Harvey declared, “Rush generously provides the movie’s primary warmth and humour; Watson is pitch-perfect as a seemingly humourless scold with a well-buried soft side. Hitherto little-noticed New Yorker Schnetzer is a real find, making Max a thoroughly ingratiating figure. French-Canadian Nélisse (Monsieur Lazhar) doesn’t come across as the most expressive of junior thesps here, but she looks right and does a competent job.”

Harvey continued, “It’s to the credit of Percival….and Petroni (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Possession) that they refuse to artificially inflate the story’s key points for melodramatic or tear-jerking purposes."

Doug Kaye, who blogs at Blogarithms, enthused, “A superb film in just about every way. Terrific screenplay by Michael Petroni. Likewise the direction by Brian Percival, who previously directed a half-dozen episodes of Downton Abbey. Geoffrey Rush is great, as usual, but the knockout performance is by a young French-Canadian actress, Sophie Nélisse. The cut we saw tonight isn’t the final mix, and I hope they tone down a few of the big-swell John Williams music moments, but that’s about the only flaw”.

Petroni and producer Jamie Hilton have launched low budget production banner Ticket to Ride, whose debut film is sexy comedy The Little Death, written and directed by Josh Lawson.

Via their company See Pictures, they are preparing to shoot in Australia Backtrack, a supernatural thriller written and directed by Petroni.

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