Writer: Angela Workman (Screenplay) Diane Ackerman (Book)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenberg, Daniel Bruhl, Timothy Radford, Efrat Dor, iddo Goldberg
Plot: The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.
There may be spoilers the rest of the review
Verdict: Heartbreakingly Brilliant Drama
Story: The Zookeeper’s Wife starts in 1939 Warsaw, Poland as we meet Antonina (Chastain) and Jan (Heldenbergh) Zabinski the zoo keepers of the Warsaw zoo, both committed to giving their animals a good life and their customers an experience they could never imagine.
When the invasion in hits Warsaw, the zoo is hit hard with the animals running wild many are killed, German zoologist Lutz Heck (Bruhl) does offer to protect the remaining quality animals by moving them to a German zoo, but the rest end up getting killed.
When Lutz agrees to let the non-Jewish couple keep their zoo open as a pig farm, they start doing what they can to help as many Jews escape the ghetto they are being forced to survive in. How many people can they save, how long can they keep everything up before getting caught out by the German’s that is the questions we are left with.
Thoughts on The Zookeeper’s Wife
Characters/Performance – Antonina is the animal lover, people lover that works with her husband to help protect as many Jews during the war as possible, she uses her status to help keep the remaining animals safe and people safe too. Jan is the husband of Antonina that takes the biggest risks by going into the ghetto housing the Jews but he becomes increasingly jealous of Antonina and Lutz working relationship. Lutz Heck is the German zoologist that uses the Warsaw zoo for his own desire to continue breeding animals and his attraction to Antonina keeps him returning.
Performance wise, Jessica Chastain is fantastic in the leading role show us once again we how she can become any part put on front of her. Daniel Bruhl does give us a great role in which we absolutely hate his character through the film even though he isn’t truly evil. Johan Heldenbergh is also great through the film standing tall next to the two bigger names of the acting world.
Story – We have heard this horrific story before, we know what the Nazi’s did to the Jews and we know Schindler’s List is the most famous and well-respected film version of these events. While the plot giving is slightly miss-leading because we are expecting to see more about the animal saving, we do find ourselves looking at the incredible story of how the zookeeper’s risk their lives to save as many as Jews as possible during the war. We know how amazing the heroes of the war were and learning new stories of their heroics is always good to see. I do feel this film does have certain pacing issues because you can have your heart broken in the open 30 minutes as you would be looking to see something slightly different in the next chapters of the story.
Biography/History/War – Seeing the story of the Zabinska’s struggle during the war shows us how brave they were trying to save, the difficult decision they made and the part of history they were part of.
Final Thoughts – This is one of the most heart-breaking films you will see this year, but it does fall into another incredible story of how people risked their own lives to save Jews from the Nazis. I would say parts of the synopsis are miss-leading as I was expecting a lot more about how the animals were being saved but saying this we can seeing another incredible story from World War II.
Overall: Brilliant story of heroic actions.