Filmmakers are finding new ways to explore the trauma and emotional affliction that millions of Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Ben Sombogaart’s new film, My Best Friend Anne Frank unearths a new shade to the beloved legacy of Anne Frank. One of the most celebrated and revisited victims from that terrible time, Frank is the driving force behind Sombogaart’s hard-to-watch yet rewarding film.
Here are five things to know about the Netflix movie before beginning the stream.
Discovering a new talent in Josephine Arendsen
Playing Hannah Goslar, Anne’s best friend, Arendsen makes a real impact here. While the famous Frank has her name in the title, “My Best Friend” focuses more on Hannah’s journey and plight. Screen time and story scope-wise, it’s Arendsen’s show here, and the 16-year-old doesn’t waste the chance. With only five credits to her name on IMDB, she is definitely one to watch. It’s not her voice or actions that stick around after the credits; it’s the longing eyes she carries that does all the explaining.
The director did his research to prepare
Before filming began, Sombogaart found a way to track down the real Goslar, who was in her 90’s living in Israel. The movie is based on her memoir, and it adds another layer of poignancy to know that the words coming out of the actress’s mouths are more than likely the real words that were spoken way back in 1942, where the movie takes off from. I imagine the filmmaker could have done this without Goslar’s firsthand words and stories, but it wouldn’t have been as good.
While her screen time equals more of a supporting role, Aiko Beemsterboer leaves a dent as Anne Frank. But instead of just casting a long shadow with those gloomy eyes and the idea that the audience already knows her end, the Netherlands native adds more layers to Anne’s personality. In one scene, she teases Hannah-who dreams of being a nurse-by showing her a medical book with female private parts shown. Screenwriters Marian Batavier and Paul Ruven give Frank that sexual freedom that only a teenage girl could inhabit, and Beensterboer nails the role.
Per usual, it’s not an easy watch
Show me a movie about the Holocaust that doesn’t cause instant rage and harmless things to be thrown around a room, and you can put that movie in the record books. “My Best Friend Anne Frank” doesn’t shy away from the hateful torment that Hannah, Anne, and their families received. You see the light in their eyes at the beginning beaming bright, and then you spend the rest of the movie hoping it doesn’t go out–even if you know it will. You’ll cover your eyes and cry, but good luck looking away for too long.
It can feel like a TV movie of the week
The only real hindrance here is that the movie has the makings of a TV movie of the week, and that’s never the goal. The screenplay is well written overall, but the pacing and sequencing don’t always land on its feet. There are patches of this movie that start to crawl, and the jumping back and forth between time periods can be confusing at times. And by making the title all about Anne Frank, the viewer may think she is the star of the show, and that’s the case.
Overall, this is a decent, if not great, Netflix movie. It’s insightful and rough around the edges, production-wise. It features a couple of solid lead performances and reveals another shade of gray to a terrible part of history. If you need a movie about the enduring power of friendship during the harshest of times, My Best Friend Anne Frank will do the job.