Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Ellie Kendrick, Iain Glen, Kate Ashfield, Felicity Jones, Tamsin Greig
Director: Jon James
Release Date: 2009
Length: 100 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“Teenager Anne Frank (Ellie Kendrick) and her Jewish family hide from the Nazis during World War II in this outstanding BBC production of the classic book. As time drags on, they deal with both the terrifying fear of their situation and normal family life. But the cramped quarters and tense situation sometimes cause tempers to flair. Presented in five half-hour episodes, the series intertwines some of Frank’s actual words within the action.” — Netflix.com
Firstly, let me state that, if you rent this movie on DVD or watch it on TV, it is only 1 hour and 40 minutes. It may originally have been released in 5 half-hour episodes, but, when you put them together and remove the commercials, it is a lot shorter!
I found this movie to be gripping and heartwrenching. It is has been a long time since I read The Diary of a Anne Frank so I could not remember everything and I am not sure which words in the movie were really hers and which ones were written by the screenwriters, but this movie version rang true to me. What they did so well was to show the stress and strain from 8 people living together in cramped quarters with no relief from each other and nowhere to get away. Instead of being able to focus on the war and the Nazis as their greatest enemy, their housemates became their enemies. Desk time, table conversation, food, clothes wearing out, these became the battles that were waged and then won or lost. I feel that it became easier and easier for them to forget why they were hiding as time went on because it was so difficult to live under those circumstances. Of course, I am sure the concentration camps were much worse, but you suffer through what you know and are experiencing – not the hypothetical.
At first, I thought this movie was going to be boring and it was a little bit at times, but it reminded me of the terrible times that people suffered during World War II. I hope that we never forget as, if we do, we can repeat our same mistakes again. I just watched Freedom Writers a few days ago and it was awful to realize that the generations growing up today are not always taught about the Holocaust. They do not know what racism, prejudice and superiority complexes can lead to. I think that this is a very important time frame to learn about and to remember. Hopefully children in school will be introduced to The Diary of a Anne Frank and other material from this time period so that they can carry the information forward to their children. I can envision teachers the world over pouncing on this movie to show to their classes after they finish the book or to show clips during lessons.
I felt that the actors in the film did an admirable job with their roles. Everyone really stepped up to the plate and showed a broad spectrum of emotions. I found myself getting teary-eyed at several points during the film as life’s little battles played out. I particularly enjoyed the actor who played Anne Frank’s father, Iain Glen – he really had a unique bond with his volatile and unpredictable daughter. I felt like he was the lynchpin who held his family together. How ironic, then, that he was the only one out of everyone who lived in that attic for 2 years to survive the concentration camps. The young girl who played Anne, Ellie Kendrick, did a wonderful job. She really portrayed that confusing age between 13 to almost 15 with all of life’s changes and frustrations. Most of us cannot even imagine being cooped up in an attic with our parents, our sister & a few strangers during that age! The actress was able to strike a delicate balance to show Anne’s zest for life, her independence, her love for her family and make you like her, even though she created a lot of trouble in the family and was just a bit spoiled and overprotected. Anne’s mother (Tamsin Greig) & sister (Felicity Jones) were beautifully subtle in their roles and, while they were peripheral in Anne’s universe, they really added another dynamic to the film. Peter, played by Geoff Breton, was Anne’s love interest. Indeed, it is not as if she had any other options as he was the only young man in Anne’s world for 2 years! He was very handsome and charming and I feel like Anne did not appreciate what she had. I think I fell in love with him a little bit myself! Peter’s parents (Ron Cook & Lesley Sharp), on the other hand, were a pair of wealthy, spoiled Jewish adults who had a very difficult time adjusting to living in the attic. They made life for the Franks much more difficult. I often wonder if the Franks would have survived and been overlooked for the duration of the war if there was only the 4 of them in the attic, instead of the 4 of them + the 3 Van Daans and Dr. Dussell (Nicholas Farrell), a single dentist who came to live with them.
The music was lovely, as it almost always is in these Masterpiece movies. The setting was thoughtfully created and they were able to make the attic an interesting space that seemed much larger than it really was. The plot was paced well and I felt like I was living through the ups and downs in their lives while they tried to survive through this horrible time. One of the most poignant moments in the movie was when they were all eagerly listening to the radio and anticipating the arrival of the Allies. They felt like their rescue was near, which is why it was so cruel that they were discovered soon after they felt the end of the war was near. They ended the movie perfectly by showing the 8 hideaways coming down the attic staircase one by one, writing their name on the screen, the concentration camp they were sent to and the date of their death. I confess that I got all weepy. This movie made these people come to life for me and I was crushed to hear that 7 out of the 8 died before the Allies could come and save them. If you are looking for a well-made movie set during the timeframe of World War II and its impact as seen through the eyes of a small group of Jews struggling to survive, this is a wonderful choice to watch and share with your family.
This movie is very clean, but there is discussion of war, segregation, prejudice against Jewish people and a young girl’s budding sexuality. There are some mild arguments that take place and journal entries that deal with Anne getting her period for the first time and her feelings as she falls in love with young Peter. Young children will probably not understand the story, though anyone of any age could watch this, but I recommend it for viewers ages 8 and up.