Set in the French Pyrenees during World War II, “Waiting for Anya” is the type of cheesy drama you’d watch in school if your district didn’t have the budget for a better film’s licensing fee. This adaptation of a children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo (“War Horse”) means well, but its insipid approach to history makes watching it feel like a homework assignment.
The Nazis have just arrived in Lescun, the quiet mountain village where 13-year-old Jo (Noah Schnapp) helps the widow Horcada (Anjelica Huston) smuggle Jewish children across the border into Spain. They try to avoid detection, but a Nazi officer (Thomas Kretschmann) attempts to befriend the teen, jeopardizing their mission.
Spotty French accents pervade the largely English-language film, where the truly gorgeous mountain setting is populated by American and British actors (Schnapp, Huston, Sadie Frost) and French ones (Jean Reno, Gilles Marini, Elsa Zylberstein). The script from Toby Torlesse and director Ben Cookson arbitrarily dips into basic French, but that does little to distract from the uninspired dialogue.
“Waiting for Anya” works to tell a tale of regular people doing the right thing in the face of danger. However, its humanization of Kretschmann’s Korporal feels dangerously like a case of #notallnazis at a time when racist far-right ideologies are again on the rise. The film’s heart appears to be in the right place, but its missteps and melodrama make this a fromage unworthy of savoring.
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Playing: Starts Feb. 7, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside