Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to grow up quite literally in the gripping second-to-last installment of the “Harry Potter” movie series, based on the first half of the seventh and final book. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) take a swig of polyjuice potion to impersonate three nondescript middle-aged people so they can infiltrate the Ministry. Afterward, they shed the older personas like giant overcoats. But they know they must stay in the adult world in this powerful story that sets up the final confrontation between the boy who did not die and he who must not be named.
No more Hogwarts school for young wizards and witches. No more Quidditch, no more short-term Defense Against the Dark Arts professors or visits to Hagrid’s creatures or OWL exams or excursions to Hogsmeade for a cozy chat over butterbear at The Three Broomsticks. Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is dead. Hermione has had to erase her parents memories so that not even a photograph remains as evidence that they once had a child. The dreadful Dursleys have fled 4 Privet Drive. Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is stronger. The Ministry is under the control of his Death Eaters, who despise muggles (humans) and want to eradicate any witches or wizards with muggle blood.
Everything is on the line. Within the first 15 minutes of the film, an important character is seriously wounded and another is killed. Deeper, direr losses are ahead. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are out in the cold as they race from one remote, chilly location to another and try to figure out how to locate the seven places where Voldemort has hidden pieces of his soul.
Director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves return, again showing a deep appreciation for the material, especially in the way the vast, bleak settings reflect the overwhelming task facing the three friends. The book is not an easy one to adapt and like its source material the movie sometimes seems to lack direction as its heroic trio often has no idea what to do next. But its young stars have grown into able performers who hold up well next to what sometimes seems like a battalion of classically trained British actors. The scene of Hermione erasing her parents memory is very brief, but Watson makes it sharply poignant. Radcliffe’s quiet dignity shows us how Harry has matured. And Grint, too often relegated to comic relief, gets a chance to show us his pain as a piece of Voldemort’s soul begins to infect him with jealousy and mistrust. A tender moment between Harry and Hermione lends a sweet gravity that does as much to add urgency to our anticipation for the next chapter as the prospect of the final battle.Parents should know that this film includes extensive fantasy action violence with characters in peril, injured and killed and some graphic and disturbing images. It also has some British strong language, teen kisses and a brief fantasy image of nude teenage couple (nothing shown). Family discussion: Why didn’t Harry want to use magic when he had to dig a grave? What objects have people left to people in your family that are especially meaningful?If you like this, try: The first six Harry Potter movies and the books by J.K. Rowling