Adapted from the novel by the author of War Horse, Waiting for Anya follows Jo Lalande (Noah Schnapp), a thirteen-year-old shepherd boy, and reclusive widow Horcada (Anjelica Huston), who come together with their village to help smuggle Jewish children into Spain during the harrows of WWII.
This powerhouse cast gives earnest performances. That being said, some things are amiss with Waiting For Anya. Something about the cinematography combined with this particular score gives the film a made for TV feel about it. It’s all in the details. The costumes, while beautiful, are a bit too clean for the time period and terrain.
The plot does delve into the nuances of humanity. I mean it is about Nazis after all. Noah Schnapp, whose breakout performance in Stranger Things is nothing less than award-worthy, feels off here. Knowing what he is capable of, I have to think this has something to do with direction choices. Same with the iconic Anjelica Huston. It’s as if I were watching a film on UP, where the actors are being told to mug for the camera intentionally. Waiting For Anya‘s running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes also does not help. Understanding that this film is based on a children’s novel of the same name (by Michael Morpurgo) does make the choices feel more appropriate. Although the tragic but completely telegraphed (and seemingly plucked right out of M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village) death of an ancillary character near the end was incredibly difficult. In truth, it is straight from the book itself. As a special needs mom, it hit a little too close to home, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.
The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous but the quality in the actual feature is inconsistent. Wide sweeping shots that are simply gorgeous are the undercut with a few poorly placed greenscreen shots. It has all the makings of a sweeping historical drama but lands in a holocaust family drama, if that’s even a thing. After all that nitpicking, I would still recommend this film as a mother. Certainly as a history lesson for my children when they reach middle school age. Until then, I believe I’ll start with the novel.
Vertical Entertainment will release WAITING FOR ANYA in theaters, on demand and digital February 7, 2020.
WAITING FOR ANYA stars Noah Schnapp (“Stranger Things”, The Peanuts Movie), Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston (The Witches, The Addams Family), Jean Reno (Leon: The Professional, The Big Blue). The film was written and directed by Ben Cookson (Almost Married).