Currently available from National Geographic Studios and ABC Signature in a limited series is the story of the Frank family and another part of the story from the view of A SMALL LIGHT.
Miep Gies (Bel Powley) was born in Austria but was adopted by a family in Holland. It is 1940 and she loves her family but they see she is not married and without a job and they are worried0about her. That’s when Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) comes into her life and a job that she wasn’t even qualified for happens.
Miep becomes close to the Frank family and enjoys the company of Edith (Amira Casar), Anne (Billie Boullet) and Margot (Ashley Brooke). She also meets Jan (Joe Cole) and finally makes the second thing her parents are worried about happen – she is married. Everything is going well for Miep even though things are a bit strange with the war begun by Hitler.
One afternoon in 1942, Mr. Frank asks Miep to come into the office to talk. He tells her that leaving Germany was for the protection of his family and now fears that he did not go further enough away. He asks that Miep help him to go into hiding with his family and she does not hesitate to agree. The story is that the Frank family has gone to Switzerland.
The plan is made for the Frank family to move into the upstairs small loft that was not being used and that no one knows about. During the day the family would have to remain silent and quietly move about at night. Miep is all in on the plans to get everyone to the loft before the Nazi’s arrive. Helping from the office as well is typist Tess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and Victor Kugler (Nicholas Burns).
Also going into hiding is Hermann Van Pels (Andy Nyman), wife Auguste (Caroline Catz) and son Peter (Rudi Goodman) and joined later by Dr. Pfeffer (Noah Taylor). Now the challenge begins on how to keep the family safe, fed and out of the reach of the Nazi’s. Once Miep tells Hans, who is a social worker who sees how wrong people are being treated, decides he also wants to be a part of the Dutch resistance.
As the Frank’s are hiding, Miep learns how to help run Mr. Frank’s pectin business and along with that are a few secrets that make things a little difficult. Jan starts his part by helping people with children get them to a safe place. Relationships are obviously strained as Miep learns who she can trust, who she cannot, how far people are willing to go to betray one-time friends and what will happen to them all?
This is a story of friendship, survival, loyalty and hope for the future!
Powley as Miep is exceptional in this role. She gives Miep a powerful voice, even if it does get her in trouble occasionally, and an equally powerful sense of right and wrong. Once she begins working for the Franks, Miep blossoms even more if that would be possible. She takes the Franks and others under her protection and takes on the role of protector, provider and keeper of secrets that could hurt them all. I just loved every time Powley was on screen as she truly is a force to be reckoned with. Taking on this iconic role, she made it look easy and brought out so many emotions from the first episode to the last.
Schreiber as Otto Frank is a big task for any actor yet Schrieber handle it with such grace and a sense of calm when everything around this character was in chaos. From accepting Miep and her ways to saving his family and a few others, it is clear that Frank was constantly thinking and staying as informed as he could. The relationship on screen with Powley is just breathtaking.
Cole as Jan has a rough beginning with Miep but when he sees how strong she is and the possibilities of doing right by others, he jumps right in. Cole gives his characters strength as a human being but also as a husband (and he needs it!). I thoroughly enjoyed his performance and teared up more than a few times as Cole’s portrayal of Jan is compassionate beyond measure.
There are so many strong performances in this limited series that I could write about them all day. Casar, Boulette and Brooke as the Frank women are trying to do their best but with all mothers and daughters – there are issues as it become a tense situation in the loft. Tomlinson as Tess does what she can and helps when she is able, including a little secret milk run. Burns as Office Manager Kugler also puts his life on the line to help the Franks and the intensity comes every time there is a knock at the door.
Other cast include Liza Sadovy as Mrs. Stoppelman, Ian McElhinney as Johannes Kleinman, Laurie Kynaston as Casmir, Sebastian Armesto as Max Stoppleman, Bill Milner as Tonny Ahlers, Sean Hart as Willem, Preston Nyman as Kuno Van Der Horst, Hanna van Vliet as Frieda, Tom Stourton as Daniel Van Dijk, Daniel Donskoy as Karl Silberbauer, Dylan Edwards as Isaac Schwartz, Sarah T. Cohen as Maya Schwartz, Sinead Phelps as Anka, and Brian Caspe as Laurens.
National Geographic is an American pay television network and flagship channel owned by National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society. They support a diverse, international community of changemakers — National Geographic Explorers — who use the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. For more information, please visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
ABC Signature is an American television production studio that is a subsidiary of Disney Television Studios, a division of Disney Entertainment, which is a division of The Walt Disney Company.
The episodes include Pilot, Welcome to Switzerland, Motherland, The Butterfly, Scheilfeld, Boiling Point, What Can Be Saved and Legacy
The cast is absolutely stellar as each of the directors Susanna Fogel, Leslie Hope and Tony Phelan seamlessly bring the story of Miep Gies and what her contribution was to the Frank family and the people of the Netherlands. The intensity is palpable and the heartbreak felt to the soul as Meip and Jan make it perfectly clear that a few can make a large difference.
From the loft, to the office to the streets, there is such a constant fear and yet a hope that the viewer will feel in each episode. Living in a time where being Jewish came with consequences, there was once a time no one could imagine what the war would cost them. It was also a time where good people put their own lives in jeopardy by doing the right thing for the Jewish community and humanity itself.
This series should be a must-see for educators because then it becomes a teaching tool. The Diary of Anne Frank became one of the most memorable books I ever read in school and I have re-read it so many times the cover is tattered. A SMALL LIGHT goes even further in explaining how things happened and what was happening on the other side of the bookcase door.
A SMALL LIGHT is streaming on the National Geographic channel and available next day on Hulu and Disney+.
In the end – sometimes you have to risk everything!