‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ tells the true story of the owners of Warsaw Zoo, Dr. Jan Żabiński and his wife Antonina. The story follows how the couple used their zoo to shelter Jews during the Nazi invasion of Poland. The film is based on the 2007 non-fiction book that Diane Ackerman wrote which became a bestseller. Could this film adaptation be as prosperous though?
The titular character is played by American actress Jessica Chastain. She gives a very touching performance throughout the film. The focus on her character was a fascinating choice. Whilst never really on the front line of the rescue missions like her husband, Antonina still had a massive role in these missions. Similarly like the characters in the Oscar nominated ‘Hidden Figures’ she’s very much a behind the scenes kind of hero. She’s not necessarily the generic kind of main character film’s like these have. Often a role like this would be neglected but instead here the spotlight is given to her and the wonderful bravery that she demonstrated. Alongside her the rest of the cast do well too, including actors such as Daniel Brühl, Michael McElhatton & Johan Heldenbergh. However, the other stars of the show have to be the many gorgeous animals featured in the film thanks to its setting. Animal lovers will enjoy the vast amount of furry friends included here but also might find some scenes distressing due to the narrative.
Emotions certainly run high throughout the entire length of the movie. I was surprised at just how emotionally invested I was so early on. This is probably testament to the true nature of this story. I was constantly stunned that this amazing story actually happened, this certainly strengthened the film and heightened all the on screen drama. At over two hours long I wouldn’t have been surprised if certain sections of the film had dragged. However, not once did I feel like the pace was too slow. The narrative continued to gain momentum as it developed and constantly kept me engaged. If I was to be really critical I would mention the third act. It doesn’t run quite as smoothly as the first two and some narrative moments felt a little rushed. When viewed as one complete picture though these minor problems don’t affect the film all that much.
‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ is a touching yet powerful drama about one couple’s incredible courage during a time of great fear. The film demonstrates the effect war has on a range of different people and consistently engages with audiences. The focus on Chastain’s character was a refreshing change from the norm and the actress carries out her role with an abundance of ability. As a result she really makes the film work and brilliantly pays tribute to another hero of history.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite Jessica Chastain film performance?
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