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The Zookeeper's Wife (2017) Reviewed By Jay

United States, 10 March 2017


Jay´s Review

We are in Warsaw prior to WWII; watch what happens when the Nazis invade Poland. Director Niki Caro ("McFarland, USA"), working from a PG-13 script by Angela Workman ("The War Bride") brings Diane Ackerman's international best-selling novel (based on a true story) to life. As bombs fall, we see the reactions of the animals in the zoo (I had never thought about that before) and the humans trapped in the Nazis' path.


Zookeepers Antonina and Jan Zabinski not only undertake the protection of animals, but also humans who are caught in a hellacious situation. A victim, whether with two legs or four, is still a victim.


Caro's brilliant cast includes:


  • * Jessica Chastain ("Miss Sloane") is Antonina, a generous and loving caretaker, her first instinct is to protect and comfort. I have never seen an actor so totally at ease with animals.
  • * Johan Heldenbergh ("The Broken Circle Breakdown") is her resourceful husband Jan, dedicated to his life's work, caring for the animals entrusted to his safekeeping. He is horrified as he sees brutality on the streets so he cannot refuse to help.
  • * Daniel Brühl ("Burnt") Lutz Heck has a haywire idea that is so goofy I knew it had to be part of the true story. I started to scoff even before Jan. A screenwriter wouldn't dare make up something so outrageous. Sure enough, if you Google him, look for the herd that carries the Heck name. Multilingual Brühl works all over Europe.
  • * Shira Haas ("A Tale of Love and Darkness") Ursula gives a name and a face to one of the Nazis' many victims.
We have plenty of souls to root for. We mostly HEAR gunshots and imagine the results. This is PG-13 because of one fleeting glimpse of a breast and an obscured view of mating buffalo.
The dialogue is in English with Polish accents and is very muted (people are often hiding), so I longed for closed captions. Once again we are treated with memorable work from Ms. Chastain, who may very well be this generation's Meryl Streep. (But Chastain's profile is prettier.)

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