“THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE” is a Breath-taking Story of Strength in the Face of Evil

The Zookeeper’s Wife [Focus Features]

What would you do if you saw atrocities taking place in your own country, your own city, your own neighborhood? Would fear of repercussions cause you to turn a blind eye or would you face the risks and fight? Based on Diane Ackerman’s book, Focus Features’ The Zookeeper’s Wifedirected by Nikki Caro and starring Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh and Daniel Bruhl—is a breath-taking story of courage and strength in the face of evil.

About The Zookeeper’s Wife

The real-life story of one working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabiński (portrayed by two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh of “The Broken Circle Breakdown”), have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Germans, Jan and Antonina are stunned—and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl of “Captain America: Civil War”). To fight back on their own terms, Antonina and Jan covertly begin working with the Resistance—and put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk.

The production values of The Zookeeper’s Wife are stellar. The script—written by Angela Workman and Diane Ackerman–was at once beautiful and raw. The sets brought to life the Zabinskis’ idyllic pre-war life in the Warsaw Zoo, the devastation of war, and the horrors of the Polish Ghettos. The acting was strong. Chastain blended Antonina’s strength of character with a nurturer’s soft heart. Heldenberg portrayal of Jan took him from a mild-mannered zookeeper to a courageous resistance fighter. Brühl imbued Heck with such callous evil that I wanted to take a baseball bat to him. Special kudos to Shira Haas for her haunting portrayal of Urszula, a young girl raped by the Nazis.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is an important film, standing alongside other Holocaust stories like Schindler’s List, The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank. It was hard to watch and hard to forget. It haunted me with the idea that people—educated people—could do the things they did and left me with the question; in that same situation, what would I do?

With a run time of 126 minutes, The Zookeeper’s Wife is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, brief nudity and smoking.

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