Keep It Reel: ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’

By Marc Woodfork

The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the true story of Antonina Zabinska and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinska, who helped Jewish citizens in 1939 Nazi-occupied Poland.  

The film stars Jessica Chastain, Daniel Bruhl, and Johan Heldenbergh. The film is engrossing, inspiring and well-intentioned, although I think the story deserved to be told better. This is a paramount event during a significant time in world history. The film needed more heart. Jessica Chastain is believable and remarkable in her role, and Daniel Bruhl is excellent.

The pace of the film is very slow.  The runtime clocks in at just over two hours and you feel every minute of it.  New Zealand director Niki Caro paints a beautiful portrait. Audiences will be hard-pressed to see a better-looking film than this one.  There are scenes shot in the Warsaw ghetto that are gorgeous and stunning.

The Zookeeper’s wife is not a bad film. It’s filled with heroism, courage, and drama.  It just lacks that bit of emotion that’s needed in this type of movie.  Audiences will leave the auditorium feeling like they watched a film but didn’t experience the story.  I felt I was a spectator rather than a part of it.  The Zabinskas’ legacy deserves a better tribute.

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