Girl with a Pearl Earring

Rated 4.0 In 17th-century Holland, a servant girl (Scarlett Johansson) goes to work for the painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and becomes the model for one of his greatest paintings. The story is fiction (from Tracy Chevalier’s novel; the true identity of the girl is lost to history), but it works itself out with the logic of 1665. The painter and his servant never cross the social gulf that divides them, but they share an understanding that excludes others, including the painter’s short-tempered wife and the servant’s butcher-boy suitor. Director Peter Webber and cinematographer Eduardo Serra give the film the simple sunlit purity of Vermeer’s own paintings, but the best reason to see it is Johansson, whose eyes reflect the guarded depths of a woman who sees more—and more clearly—than her time and place will allow her to.