"The Good Shepherd"
What You Need To Know:
WAITING FOR ANYA is a wonderful period piece set in majestic mountain beauty. Christian themes and symbols are plentiful, as well as loyalty, sacrifice and friendship. For example, the shepherd boy is friends with a special needs boy. Several scenes are set in church, including a concert where the organist plays some Christian music by Bach. WAITING FOR ANYA is a captivating, gripping, inspiring movie for older children and adults. Some violent scenes are too scary for younger children.
Set in the south France during WWII, WAITING FOR ANYA, portrays young Jo (Noah Schnapp), a teenage shepherd boy who discovers a secret in the woods surrounding the flocks where he herds the family’s sheep. In this coming of age story, Jo is initially frightened by a bear attack on the sheep. Jo enlists the help of the townsfolk, who rush into the forest to dispatch the bear. The men successfully kill the bear and display the dead bear while the townspeople celebrate by drinking some wine.
Meanwhile, Jo’s sheepdog is nowhere to be found, so he goes into the forest looking for his dog. As he spots his dog, he sees a man and starts talking with him. The man reveals to Jo that the bear was a mother bear protecting her cub. He pours some milk on a rock, and the baby cub comes up to him to drink it. The man swears Jo to secrecy about his presence in the forest. Jo follows the man, who takes the cub to a remote farmhouse owned by the widow Horcada (Anjelica Huston).
Weeks later, Jo returns to the farmhouse with a bottle of sheep milk with the hope of seeing the bear cub. He sneaks into the barn to look for the bear, but the bear is gone. Instead, he discovers a little girl. Subsequently, he develops a friendship with the man, Benjamin (Frederick Schmidt), and Horcada. Jo learns they are smuggling Jewish children across the border to Spain. Jo becomes Horcada’s “grocery boy”, and Benjamin and Horcada swear Jo to secrecy about their clandestine operation.
Jo also learns that Benjamin had smuggled his little daughter, Anya, onto a bus when some trains were being loaded with Jews. He tells Anya to meet him at Grandmother, Horcada’s house. Now, Benjamin is waiting for Anya before he moves the Jewish children into Spain.
Meanwhile, German soldiers move into Jo’s little village to occupy it. A special needs boy, Hubert (Declan Cole), and Jo are befriended by the German Korporal (Thomas Kretschmann) who promises to take them bird watching and allow them to watch the birds with his binoculars. Jo’s grandfather, Henri (Jean Reno), hides one of his rifles in the town cemetery. Jo is apprehensive at first but eventually hikes into the mountain with the Korporal. However, the German Leutnant (Tómas Lemarquis), the Korporal’s superior, is keeping an eye on young Jo.
Since the German soldiers are patrolling the border, it’s impossible for Benjamin to take the children into Spain. As the German’s squeeze closer to the Horcada’s farmhouse, Benjamin and children move their hiding place to a remote cave that belongs to Joe’s grandfather, Henri. Jo discovers from a letter hidden by his mother that his father is in a prison camp for resisting the Germans. In time, Henri and Horcada get married.
Miraculously, Jo’s father (Gilles Marini) is released from prison camp and returns home, to the delight of his family. However, the deprivation leads him to drink too much, and he becomes angry with Jo for becoming “friends” with the German Korporal. When Grandpa Henri vouches for Jo’s quiet resistance, Papa joins the effort to help smuggle the children. Jo’s household develops a clever plan to disguise the Jewish children even while they’re still waiting for Anya.
WAITING FOR ANYA is an inspiring period piece akin to THE SOUND OF MUSIC in its depiction of the majestic, European mountain beauty during the Nazi regime. However, it’s more somber and less musical as well as being a coming of age story of a young teenage boy. Jo and his special needs friend, Hubert, teach viewers about friendship. Loyalty and sacrifice are paramount themes while each character has their own personal struggles to overcome. Christian themes and symbols are plentiful in WAITING FOR ANYA. For example, the children of the town host a concert in the church. The church organist plays “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach. The Nazi Korporal prays in the church when personal tragedy strikes his family, and it leads him to wonder about the reasons for the war. Also, the biblical verse “I am the good Shepherd” from John 10:11 plays an important part in the story.
There are a few drawbacks in WAITING FOR ANYA. For example, some scenes, such as an image of the dead bear dripping blood and a scene where a boy is shot and killed are too scary and intense for younger children. At times, the dialogue is difficult to follow because of the choice to use English with an accent. Otherwise, however, WAITING FOR ANYA is a captivating, gripping, inspiring movie for older children and adults.
WAITING FOR ANYA had a small, limited release earlier this year and is now available on the Internet through places like Amazon and iTunes.