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The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this BBC version of The Diary of Anne Frank portrays a much more realistic teenage Anne, who is occasionally self-absorbed, moody, and obsessed with her personal and physical growth. Although the war and the Holocaust still loom over the action in this adaptation, the focus is much more on Anne and the sometimes-strained relationships shared between the cramped inhabitants of the secret annex. Many teens still read the diary as part of school curriculum, but a certain amount of maturity is necessary to see the mini-series. Anne's narration to her diary speaks candidly about her changing body and her budding adolescent sexuality. Like in other adaptations, she and Peter flirt and eventually kiss and start a romantic relationship. Tensions run high every time a bomb is heard overhead or unexpected footsteps heard below, and there are a few intense scenes as everyone in hiding expects the worst.
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What's the story?
The action starts on Anne's (Ellie Kendrick) 13th birthday, when she receives the diary as a present, and follows the Franks (family patriarch Otto is played by Iain Glen and mother Edith by Tamsin Greig) two weeks later, as they flee their home to stay in a secret annex attached to their spice factory's office. The Franks, who also have an older daughter, 16-year-old Margot (Felicity Jones), are soon joined by another family, the Van Daans, and their teenage son Peter (Geoff Breton), and eventually by a middle-aged dentist, Mr. Dussel (Nicholas Farrell). For two years, the five adults and three adolescents must remain completely quiet during working hours, so none of the factory workers below will uncover their secret, and live off of the rations and information brought to them by a small group of caring Frank employees like Miep Gies (Kate Ashfield) and Johannes Kleiman (Roger Frost). As time passes, the eight inhabitants struggle to deal with their lack of privacy and their minor annoyances with each other.
Is it any good?
This five-part BBC miniseries of The Diary of Anne Frank is a more relatable, faithful adaptation of the legendary diary than the classic 1959 movie. As portrayed by Kendrick (who looks quite a bit like the real Anne), Anne is still as energetic and upbeat as she is in previous depictions, but she's also moody, self-absorbed, jealous, and believably 13, 14, and 15. Anyone who has read the diary knows that Anne isn't perfect or a martyr, as the media can sometimes portray her. She was a fiery teenager who could be petulant and unkind but also incredibly optimistic and insightful. Kendrick captures that untamed spirit, and it's refreshing that she's not distractingly beautiful like Millie Perkins from the original Hollywood movie, or Natalie Portman, who played Anne on Broadway.
In keeping with accurate descriptions, Mr. Dussel is not depicted as bumbling or clueless about Judaism the way he was in the '59 adaptation. Peter and Anne's romance is also believably displayed as a matter of hormones mixed with proximity and not a passionate, "true love" type of relationship.
Endorsed by the Anne Frank Foundation, this BBC mini-series does not make any controversial revelations, like the award-winning 2001 made-for-TV movie Anne Frank: The Whole Story, which claimed the Franks were betrayed by a factory maintenance worker. It is faithful to the original text, without shying away from Anne's unkind descriptions of the other inhabitants or her mature musings about her changing body and her early-adolescent sexuality. Scenes with Anne and Margot are particularly touching, because despite being incredibly different (Anne's impetuous, interested in Hollywood celebrities and being the center of attention, while Margot does her academic work religiously and is quite gentle and serious) they grow to become each other's (save for the diary) deepest confidants. Families interested in a realistic but still stirring depiction of life in the secret annex should check out this BBC production.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the circumstances that led to the Franks going into hiding. Discuss the way Nazis treated Jews and those protecting Jews all throughout Europe.
How does the stress and, at times, humiliation of living in such cramped quarters affect Anne and everyone else hiding with her family? In what ways does Anne treat her father differently than her mother? Why did Anne favor her father so much? Was Anne fair to her mother?
Anne tells her mother she doesn't want to be anything like her -- a woman who "just" took care of her husband and children. What opportunities are available to young girls now that might not have existed in the 1940s?
Does the story portray Anne and Peter as a well-suited couple? How do you think being cooped up in the annex impacted their feelings? Do you think it's natural that one of the Frank sisters and Peter got together?
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