Stranger Things breakout Noah Schnapp (who plays Will Byers in the popular Netflix series) takes the lead in this World War II coming-of-age story set in occupied France.
The film begins in 1942 when French Jews are being mass deported to concentration camps. Schnapp plays Jo, a young shepherd in a small village in the Pyrenees mountains who discovers that a local widow (Anjelica Huston) is harbouring Jewish children so her adult son can smuggle them into Spain via the mountain passes.
When Nazis arrive in their village and begin patrolling the mountains, Jo and his grandfather (legendary French actor Jean Reno) help the widow keep the children safe as Jo becomes close with the local corporal, a "good German" played by Thomas Kretschmann.
With its focus on a child facing the incomprehensibility of war and the Holocaust, Waiting for Anya can't help but invite comparisons to Jojo Rabbit, but this is a much more straightforward story aimed at a more youthful audience.
It beneficially evokes a time when children's films had real-world life-or-death stakes, even if the whole affair is a little on the nose. But the lack of subtlety doesn't detract from the power of the events being portrayed.
The actors speak English with French accents, so there is a degree of accessibility for younger audience members drawn in by Schnapp's involvement. His huge eyes are put to good use, even if his accent wavers a little here and there. He effectively conveys the weight of a child forced to grow up too quickly, and is well-supported by a stacked supporting cast. Reno is an especially welcome presence who effortlessly lends authenticity to the proceedings.
The stunning mountain location also adds value to this earnest, yet solid family-friendly tale of bravery in the face of evil.
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Jean Reno, Anjelica Huston
Director: Ben Cookson
Running time: 109 minutes
Rating: M (Violence)
Verdict: Old-fashioned story of youthful courage during war time