a THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE musing
Although I love Jessica Chastain and she continues to do great work in her roles, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie, mainly because of the boring trailers that made this look cliche. While still trite in some areas, this Holocaust film still manages to be affecting, but to the detriment of watchability. Chastain plays Antonina Zabinski, who keeps us the Warsaw Zoo with her husband and provides sanctuary for Jews throughout World War II. Directed by a female, the story focuses on Antonina’s point of view to great effect, and also has a poignant subplot of sexual assault. That thread is left dangling midway or not wrapped up as effectively as I would have liked, but THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE does a great job in everything else it’s trying to accomplish.
The animals in the movie are cute as can be, but this is a war movie, so you expect things to happen to them. Still, it never prepares you for a little shock value. THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE relies on you knowing the history of Warsaw during WWII to let certain moments hit effectively, and the filmmakers don’t hold the audience’s hand, thankfully. A lot is implied and not shown, so that when a violent action does happen, there’s more power in that scene. Yes, this is a relatively tame version of the actual events, but we already have so many other movies that show the despair of the Jews, of humanity during that time. The focus of the movie is on the good nature of the Zabinski family, not on atrocities, thankfully so.
Nevertheless, THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE can still dive into darkness here and there, and can be a really rough time in the theater. I still recommend this as a good movie this year.
RATING: GOING IN MY BLU-RAY COLLECTION
(Refer to my rating system HERE!)
P.S. Star/Producer Jessica Chastain and Director Niki Caro were at my screening for a short Q&A after the movie (like at my A UNITED KINGDOM screening). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a picture with the beautiful Ms. Chastain, since I didn’t bumrush the stage and they had to leave quickly after. So below are more pics, anyway.