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Parents' Guide to

Waiting for Anya

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Kid-focused Nazi resistance drama has violence, peril.

Movie NR 2020 109 minutes
Waiting for Anya Poster Image

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With this story, writer-director Ben Cookson aims to find a gentle way to introduce preteens to understanding the atrocities of World War II. In that way, it's similar to The Sound of Music. But the characters in Waiting for Anya aren't affluent Austrians singing happy songs. Rather, they're French villagers who find themselves in the middle of the Nazis' Jewish genocide due to their location as the last stop on the escape route to Spain. Two Nazi officers lead the operation: the cruel and terrible Lieutenant (Tómas Lemarquis) and the friendly and kind Korporal (Thomas Kretschmann). It's jarring to see a Nazi portrayed positively, but the point is to see the humanity in our enemies. Nazis rarely fall into that territory, and for good reason, but here we see that the Korporal is an independent thinker who isn't in goose step with the Fuhrer's goals.

Sticking closely to Michael Morpurgo's 1990 children's novel from which it's adapted, Waiting for Anya is a hero's story told from a kid's perspective. Jo doesn't have a stake in the war: He's not Jewish or German, so in theory he just has to wait it out. But when he learns that the mysterious, kindhearted man he met in the woods (Frederick Schmidt) and the village's curmudgeon (Anjelica Huston) are secretly whisking children to safety, he's compelled to get involved. The story is heartbreakingly earnest. But it's also a portrait of courage that tweens can connect with, since it's about a kid doing everything in his power to save other kids' lives. Still, even when the efforts are victorious, there's no sweet "Goodbye, Farewell." Rather, there are several individual upsetting tragedies that help young viewers understand that in war, even when you win, you lose.

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