The Zookeeper’s Wife: Film Review – Wife Ho Toh Aisi!

Verdict: Jessica Chastain wins your heart with her love and courage.

There are many movies made on the Holocaust, some of them have even won Academy AwardsLife is Beautiful was very emotional, portraying the brutality of the period. The Pianist gave an insight on the life of the Jews in concentration camps. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas showed a different, rather innocent perspective. Then there are movies like Schindler’s List that haunt you for a long time after you have watched them. Niki Caro’s recent war drama, The Zookeeper’s Wife, is one such movie, which has all of the above attributes. It is emotional, gives a realistic view into the lives of the Jews and the Germans, while telling a heart-wrenching true tale of a hero.

What makes The Zookeeper’s Wife different from the other Holocaust films is that the protagonist is a woman. Not many women achieved fame during this gory period of history, but Antonina Żabiński’s courage deserves a story. Along with her husband Dr. Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), Antonina (Jessica Chastain) sheltered around 300 Jews from the German forces in their zoo villa. A place which housed animals before World War 2 became the sanctuary of Jews who were rescued from the Warsaw ghetto by Jan. Antonina kept them hidden from the German soldiers, while risking her own family’s safety. Her biggest threat lay in Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), the former head of the Berlin Zoo, who later became Hitler’s zoologist. Antonina was sure, as long as she kept him interested in her, he wouldn’t learn about the Jews that were hidden in the basement of the house he visited every day.

The Zookeeper's Wife still - BookMyShow

If this movie was made a decade ago, Jan would be the protagonist. It was him after all who decided to provide shelter to the Jews, rescued them from the heavily guarded ghettos, and fought against the German soldiers. But cinema today is paying keen attention to the contribution of women, and this we get to see Antonina’s side of the story. It is heartbreaking, yet inspiring. 

Jessica Chastain, who is known for her versatility, portrays the character effortlessly. Her presence is delightful to watch, while her actions will leave you in awe. Besides Chastain, Daniel Brühl also delivers a very convincing performance. You cannot help but dislike this handsome young soldier from the start, and Antonina’s hidden disgust for him can be felt in our own hearts.

For a movie that is set in such a dark period, The Zookeeper’s Wife makes for a beautiful watch. The cinematography and colors used create a very warm effect, unlike what you are supposed to feel after watching the film. Perhaps this is the reason you will not be emotionally affected by the action. Apart from the bombings that kill a number of animals in the zoo, there are not many tear-jerking moments. The story gets more intense in the second half, while the last few minutes leave you at the edge of your seat. As expected, it is a movie with a happy ending, but it’s all that happens through the film that leave you in awe.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:

Even though the premise of the movie is grim, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a lovely movie to watch. Jessica Chastain delivers a brilliant performance, and her relationship with the animals in the zoo is just too adorable to miss. 

Release Date: 2017-04-21
Language: English
Director: Niki Caro
Genre: War, Drama
Cast & Crew: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Johan Heldenbergh
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