Title – The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
Director – Niki Caro (North Country)
Cast – Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, Michael McElhatton
Plot – Based on the true story of zoo owners Antonina and Jan Zabinski (Chastain and Heldenbergh) who throughout World War 2 helped save the lives of 100’s of Polish Jews despite the danger to themselves and the ones they love.
“Maybe that’s why I love animals so much. You look in their eyes, and you know exactly what’s in their hearts”
Review by Eddie on 09/11/2017
It’s never a good sign for a movie when there’s more emotional response being wrung out of animal deaths than human causalities and for Whale Rider director Niki Caro’s adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s bestselling book, it’s even worse considering the subject material here is dealing with a heartbreaking World War 2 tale of unimaginable loss and torment during the Nazi occupied time in Poland of the 1940’s.
The Zookeeper’s Wife should be a film being talked about for end of year awards recognition but this pretty, yet unfortunately heartless drama fails to connect us properly to the plight of zoo managing couple Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who during the course of World War 2 risked their lives to save 100’s of Jewish citizens escape the clutches of the invading German forces after their beloved zoo was bombed to pieces and taken over by Hitler’s army in Warsaw.
It’s a fascinating and seemingly not well-known true story that should be ripe for the big screen, much like classic World War 2 big screen pictures like The Pianist, Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas and even Schindler’s List but Caro and her team fail to ever ignite the story of the Zabinski’s to the levels it deserved.
Things start out promising enough as we’re introduced to zoo life in peaceful Poland before war breaks out but Caro and her cast that’s headlined by what could be normally ace actress Jessica Chastain’s worst lead performance as the kind hearted Antonina and another terrible Daniel Bruhl turn as nefarious Nazi zoologist Lutz Heck (that seems to be his by now type casted role), can’t make things work.
With Chastain’s distracting Polish accent in the forefront, poorly established scenes of the Zabinski’s and their interactions with their house guests and just a general sense that we’re never getting the best out of what the story should be delivering, The Zookeeper’s Wife ends up being an experience that leaves us feeling rather empty, even though we clearly understand that what was done was nothing short of heroic and heart-warming.
Final Say –
Bringing a worthy true story to the big screen, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a polished production that has failed to bring the passion and heart the story deserved. With a misguided Chastain performance at the forefront and little support from the ensemble as a whole, Caro’s film is a disappointment and one of the year’s biggest wastes of potential.
2 food scrap bins out of 5