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The Zookeeper’s Wife Movie Review: This Story Celebrates Life in All Forms

Jessica Chastain Photo from The Zookeepers Wife

Photo of Jessica Chastain in The Zookeepers Wife


Title: The Zookeeper’s Wife
Director: Niki Caro
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, Timothy Radford, Efrat Dor, Iddo Goldberg, Shira Haas, Michael McElhatto.

Those who were moved by ‘Schindler’s List’ will be touched by the story of Antonina Zabinski. ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ is a film written (Angela Workman) and directed (Niki Caro) by women, about an unheralded female heroine, who was ignored by history. The film is a tale about the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.

The strength of character of the protagonist is divinely portrayed by Jessica Chastain, who embodies her gentle manner, along with the Polish’s woman strength of character in saving lives. Cinema has collected a number of films, fictionalized or inspired by true stories, about the silent heroes who rescued the victims of the Nazi persecution. But what distinguishes this flick from the rest is that it is also an intimate family account. It is the chronicle of a husband (Johan Heldenbergh) and wife, their child (Timothy Radford/Val Maloku) and their work. We get to peek into their everyday life, amidst the war and the cocky presence of the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl).

The entire cast performs with an accent and, despite this choice could have run the risk of being annihilated by stereotype, it provides a further nuance of veracity to the raw performance of all the actors. Niki Caro has staunchly lead her cast and crew in a remarkable adaptation of the book by Diane Ackerman.

As producer Diane Miller Levin (another woman on the production team!), highlighted: “This story celebrates life in all forms.” The spirit of all living things is truly valued in a time of destruction, which perpetually seems to be the leitmotiv of human history.

Technical: B+
Acting: A+
Story: A
Overall: A+ 
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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The Zookeepers Wife
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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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