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waiting for anya

★★★

director: ben cookson (almost married)

starring: noah schnapp, elsas zylberstein, anjelica huston and jean reno

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Jo, a teenager, and Horcada, a widow, persevere to help Jewish children travel to Spain and save them from the Holocaust amidst the challenges they are set to face.

Even though in the first season of Stranger Things we don’t see that much of Noah Schnapp as Will, he becomes the beating heart of the Netflix phenomenon and a heck of a lot of this comes down to Schnapp’s strong screen presence. Here, in Waiting for Anya, we see this again. With a strong performance from Stranger Thing’s Noah Schapp, Waiting for Anya is an arresting WWII tale that while entertaining and enlightening, doesn’t pack as much punch as expected. 

 

During World War II in the German occupation of France, a small village in the Pyrenees, one day, a very young shepherd, Jo, discovers several Jewish children hidden on a farm, run by a widow and her son-in-law, Benjamin. The latter has lost track of his daughter, Anya, and hopes to find her one day. During this time, helped by his mother-in-law, he helps the young Jews whom they protect to flee to Spain. But this time, their mission is disrupted by the Germans who skirt the border, making it impossible to escape. But, listening only to his courage, Jo decides to keep their secret and do everything to help them escape to Spain. 

 

Based on the best-selling Michael Murpurgo novel (of War Horse fame), Waiting for Anya is an entertaining yet strange beast. For its subject matter, Jews fleeing from the Nazi’s, it doesn’t carry the same weight as other films that address this horrific subject. 

 

As it seems to be aimed at a more younger audience, like the novel on which it's based, Waiting for Anya appears to dull down the terror of the situation to allow a younger audience to access it. While the intention is admirable it does slightly rob the film of a deeper impact with its genteel feel and approach.

 

That being said there is an arresting tale here with powerful themes explored of loyalty, honor and doing the right thing no matter the cost. Waiting for Anya also has a variety of subplots that are not only entertaining but worthwhile soaking in. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, perfectly capturing the dreamlike village and the sweeping vistas of the French countryside. 

 

With a strong performance from Stranger Thing’s Noah Schapp, Waiting for Anya is an arresting WWII tale that while entertaining and enlightening, doesn’t pack as much punch as expected.

★★★