My Best Friend Anne Frank Parent Guide
Given its powerful elements, this should be a better film than it is.
Parent Movie Review
Not even war can dim Anne Frank’s (Aiko Beemsterboer) and Hannah Goslar’s (Josephine Arendsen) zest for living. It’s 1942 and the 14 year old best friends live in Amsterdam under the brutality of Nazi occupation. As Jews, the girls and their families cope with restrictions, random acts of violence, and the constant threat of deportation to a concentration camp. These worries don’t stop the girls from giggling together, having tea parties, playing ball in the park, or obsessing about boys – and promising each other that they will always be together.
Fate has other plans, and the girls are soon separated. Anne and her family spend two years hiding in rooms above her father’s office before being betrayed and sent to Bergen Belsen. And Hannah eventually winds up in the same camp, bearing total responsibility for the care of her little sister. Then she hears a familiar whistle on the other side of the fence…
My Best Friend Anne Frank is a Dutch film, based on the memoirs of Hannah Goslar, who grew up with Anne Frank. The story is almost impossible to believe – the coincidence of the girls being able to reconnect in Bergen Belsen seems more likely to be dreamed up by a screenwriter than to have occurred in real life. Depending on your beliefs, it’s either a bizarre quirk of fate or the inscrutable mercy of God but in either case it has a powerful effect on Hannah, leading her to reconsider her priorities, her loyalties, and her sense of self.
Given its powerful elements – friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, faith, endurance, self-respect, and dignity in the face of brutality – this should be a better film than it is. The story is authentic and the acting is good, but the script itself seems to be the issue. (This might be partially a translation problem – I watched with subtitles and a dub track. It’s possible that the movie is better in the original Dutch.) Frankly, the biggest challenge for me is in the very core of the film – the friendship between Hannah and Anne. Anne’s diaries depict a girl who’s brave, curious, loyal, and emotionally intense. The Anne who appears in this film is selfish, manipulative, impulsive, reckless, and even cruel. She pressures Hannah into taking great risks, stands by and implicitly encourages another girl to humiliate Hannah, and embarrasses her friend with sexual material she doesn’t want to see. Why Hannah, who is dutiful, loyal, and conscientious, puts up with such a difficult friendship is never made clear. Her willingness to risk her life – and the safety of her sister – for such a demanding friend, is even less understandable.
Parents or teachers who are considering this film for teenage viewing can be assured that content is relatively minor for a Holocaust movie. There are upsetting scenes of violence and brutality perpetrated by Nazis but the worst events take place off screen. There are scenes of girls discussing French kissing and a brief moment where girls look at an anatomy book with explicit illustrations of female genitalia and sexual intercourse. Aside from that, swearing is infrequent and other content non-existent.
Readers of Anne Frank’s diary will certainly find this production interesting. But viewers looking for teen-friendly Holocaust films can certainly do better. (Scroll down for our suggestions.) A subject this weighty deserves a movie of equal heft and My Best Friend Anne Frank simply feels thin and incomplete. It could be that reducing Hannah to “Anne’s friend” instead of a person whose story is compelling on its own is part of the problem. A girl of her courage and loyalty deserves her own account; not to be seen through the prism of her relationship with her famous friend.Directed by Ben Sombogaart. Starring Aiko Beemsterboer, Josephine Arendsen. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release February 1, 2022. Updated February 4, 2022
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My Best Friend Anne Frank
Rating & Content Info
Why is My Best Friend Anne Frank rated TV-14? My Best Friend Anne Frank is rated TV-14 by the MPAA for fear, language, violence, and smoking
Violence: There are frequent scenes of German soldiers and guards behaving brutally towards Jews in Holland and in the concentration camps. German officers throw a Jewish man on the sidewalk and kick him in the face. German guards shoot a prisoner in the back. A guard kicks a prisoner. A soldier manhandles a pregnant woman and spits at her husband. A woman dies in childbirth off screen. People tear their clothes in mourning. A man slaps his daughter. A man dies in front of his children. Officers scream abuse at women and children.
Sexual Content: Girls frequently joke about French kissing. A teenage boy slides his hand up a girl’s dress and kisses her although she seems unwilling. A girl talks about breasts. Girls look through a book with illustrations of female reproductive anatomy and sexual intercourse. A guard gropes a female prisoner’s chest.
Profanity: There are a few suspected German swear words but they are not translated. There are a handful of swear words, including one scatological curse and two terms of deity. Crude terms for women are used on three occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Girls pretend that their tea is champagne. Adults smoke cigarettes.
Page last updated February 4, 2022
My Best Friend Anne Frank Parents' Guide
Why do you think Hannah and Anne are best friends? What holds their friendship together? Why do you think Hannah puts up with the way Anne treats her?
Hannah switches her attitude from “What would Anne do?” to “What would Hannah do?” What causes her to make that switch? How does that affect her decisions? Which of these two girls would you rather emulate? Why?
Anne Frank is famous for her diaries but Hannah Goslar is less well known. For more information about Hannah, you can follow these links:
Wikipedia: Hanneli Goslar
Scholastic: Growing Up With Anne
Seeing Hannah and Gabi in Bergen Belsen is shocking, but their experience was not an isolated one. For more about children in the Holocaust, you can read these articles:
Museum of Tolerance: Children of the Holocaust
Wikipedia: Children in the Holocaust
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Hidden Children
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Obviously, viewers who want to learn more about Anne Frank will read her personal account in Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl.
Newly published, The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivanattempts to answer the enduring question: Who turned in the Franks and the other people hiding in the Secret Annex?
This movie is based on the memories of Hannah Goslar. You can read more in Alison Leslie Gold’s Hannah Goslar Remembers. Anne Frank’s peers share their memories of her in We All Wore Stars: Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates by Theo Coster and Marjolijn de Jager.
Personal accounts from scores of Holocaust survivors enrich accounts of Anne Frank’s life in Carol Ann Lee’s Anne Frank and the Children of the Holocaust.
Full of photos and illustrations, All About Anne is published by Anne Frank House and is aimed at answering the questions raised by young people about Anne.
Related home video titles:
#Anne Frank: Parallel Stories is a documentary focused on Anne Frank and five Holocaust stories. The survivors, all women, tell their stories in their own words and Helen Mirren narrates Anne Frank’s experience.
Suitable for older kids, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit provides an introduction to the abuses of the Third Reich. When her father falls afoul of the Nazis in 1933, Anna and her family are forced to become refugees and embark on a path that takes them through Switzerland and France before they settle in England.
One of the most compelling movies ever made about the Holocaust, Schindler’s List tells a gripping tale of the real life Oskar Schindler who used his factory as a way to keep Jews out of the concentration camps.
The Germans did their best to keep the world in ignorance of the horrors of the concentration camps – and they were assisted by willful blindness on the part of many nations. The Auschwitz Report tells the true story of two Slovak Jews who escaped from Auschwitz with damning evidence of exactly what was going on in the camps.
Sent to England for safety at the beginning of the war, a young violinist later feels the horrors of the Holocaust overwhelm his life in The Song of Names.