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War brews over Warsaw in 1939, and while life is still running its course, the Germans are slowly beginning to make their presence felt, with Hitler secretly preparing for the German invasion of Poland. Under those circumstances, the young couple of Jan and Antonina Zabinski continue their daily routine as owners and keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, but soon, as German Luftwaffe's Stukas hammer the Polish capital, their life's work together with the city, will turn to ashes. However, with the zoo liquidated for the war effort and many of its animals tragically perished, what was once an animals' zoo, will now serve as a sanctuary where Antonina, the humanist veterinarian, and Jan can hide the persecuted Polish Jews in plain sight until safe houses are found. That was Jan and Antonina's formidable, yet perilous plan, who regardless of the consequences, refused to wither before the Nazi menace, took matters into their own hands and sheltered 300 Jews under the Germans' noses. Written by
This film is pleasant. It didn't amaze me, it didn't make me love or hate it, but it was an understated movie delicately sprinkled with heartache. I only watched it because I love Chastain so much. And she certainly carried it.
Visually, it's enchanting and idyllic. Gorgeous sets, striking costumes, and scenes delicately brushed with soft glows and ravishing tones. It's beautiful to watch - no doubt about it. And the cinematography is also stunning.
But the dialogue is boring, and often ruins scenes that would otherwise be extremely powerful in total silence. The characters often say things that don't need to be said, and thus the scene loses its emotional grip on the viewer. It's wasted. Most of the scenes themselves are wasted opportunities. Some of them don't add to the story, and some just feel tedious when the plot's already taking too long to get going. There are heartbreaking moments, yet I never shed a tear; there are scenes I know I would otherwise be crying at (I cry extremely easy in movies) but I never did. Why? Because they lacked punch.
It's too soapy. Pretty, too clean, and far too nice. It's too sugar- coated and lovely, and there's no emotional punch or real horror. The story's tragic, but the movie never whacks you with the realisation because everything's kept too comfortable; you feel for the characters, definitely, but it's not profound. Even when there are gut-wrenching moments (example: when that young girl is assaulted - off screen - by two soldiers, and later emerges from the alley with blood on her legs and clearly in shock) it feels romanticised. Here's a pivotal moment to showcase the utter barbarity of the Nazi occupation and what it could mean for the common people, but the scene does not hit as hard as it could have. It doesn't mock or cast those types of tragic scenes in a good light, it just doesn't dare to make them real.
The acting is solid. The characters are slightly contrived, but Jessica Chastain gives an incredibly understated and heartrending performance. Her character gets decent development, and through her courageous but outstandingly humble and subtle efforts to help the Jews and save her own family, she's an inspiring heroine I never stopped rooting for. I loved the feminist example she was, and how her quiet strength got the spotlight.
The Zookeeper's Wife is beautifully shot and generally beautifully written, but it's too clean and idyllic to pack the emotional punch the story so desperately needed. Jessica Chastain's performance, although slightly contrived, is certainly what carries the film.
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