'The Zookeeper's Wife' film review
I wanted to cover this film as I feel it hasn't been covered enough in the media recently. 'The Zookeeper's Wife' is directed by Niki Caro and is based upon the book of the same name. It tells the truly extraordinary story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who were the owners and operators of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland during the Nazi occupation of the country during World War II. After the zoo was damaged by bombing, Antonina and Jan, at great personal risk, smuggled over three hundred Jewish Poles from the Warsaw ghetto into their zoo and hid them (until homes could be found for them in safe areas) over the course of the war. As a story, it's utterly incredible, and this film captures well the bravery of all these people and highlights the terrors of living in such uncertain times.
I'll begin by saying that this film is not for the faint-hearted. Some scenes in this film are staggeringly haunting. This film does not hold back in showing the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto and what the Zabinski family, and Poland, were witness to. It's hard-hitting in a disturbing way, and it makes you remember why we as a culture need to remember the atrocities committed by humans during that time. There are parts of this film that are incredibly hard to watch and personally I think that this film needed a higher rating than a 12A.
That being said, the standout in this film is Jessica Chastain, who plays Antonina. She delivers a brilliant emotional performance and quite rightly is the focus of this film. Her performance really drives this film and it is one of the best that I have seen her in. However, Jessica Chastain's strength in this role is also one of the major problems I have with this film. Aside from Daniel Brühl, who is fantastically creepy as Heck, Hitler's top zoologist, the other performances in this film just seem weak.
All the same, it's gripping, and I cried several times during this film at its most emotionally devastating. 'The Zookeeper's Wife' does well to show the importance of stories like this, but some jarred acting and strange shifts in tone can often bring you out of the immersiveness of this film. It's a tough film to watch, but if you can stomach it, it's worth the watch. It's a truly inspiring story.