Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking. Reviewed by: Gerry Release date: March 31, 2017 Released by: Focus Features
I found this film to be an enthralling movie. The peaceful,almost Edenlike tranquility of a zoo set in Warsaw (1939) is shattered by bombs from a german military assault. The film stars Jessica Chastain in a stunning performance. She is a nurturing influence to the zoo animals, her own family, and to the scores of refugees, seeking escape from nazi oppression. Chastain and her husband in the film portray the true life story of the actual zookeeper (Jan Zabinski) and his wife (Antonia).Their story covers approximately six years of the german occupation of Poland. This young couple chose to serve as helpers and hosts to hundreds of people seeking escape from the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. They sheltered, hid, and housed people in their house, and other areas within the zoo.
Antonia's home at the zoo is full of small lovable animals, a skunk, young lion cubs, and a cute little bunny. Antonia shows her commitment to her animal charges by rescuing a new born baby elephant early in the movie.
As the occupation continues Jan and Antonia use imaginative methods to bypass german scrutiny. They cover small kids under mounds of garbage used to feed a pig farm newly set on the zoo site. They bring these little ones out under bales of hay. The threatening german presence is epitomized in the person of the head zookeeper of Berlin.He is interested in obtaining the best specimens from the Warsaw zoo to bring them to Berlin for "safekeeping". He also shows a romantic interest in Antonia.She now travels a perilous path. She is somewhat encouraging to the Berliner,but really wants to use his influence to help both her zoo and her rescue work. When her husband seems jealous, Antonia handles the situation nicely.
Jan and Antonia are the parents of a three year old when the germans invade. He remains with them for the entire occupation, and grows into a precocious eight year old at the conclusion.
A very moving story from the film shows Jan rescuing a very young girl, who has been brutally raped by two german soldiers. Jan hides this young victim in his truck and brings her home. She is cared for by Antonia, but is basically catatonic with fear. Antonia gives the girl her pet bunny as a gift. The tiny animal seems to help the young girl in getting better.
A second heart wrenching scene showed Jan being forced to load very small children onto a railroad car bound for Germany. The youngsters hold out their arms and smile at Jan. It was very moving.
On the whole the movie (2 hr 4 min)flew by. Jessica turned in a terrific oscar worthy performance. The ending had a few nifty twists and turns. I recommend it with enthusiasm.
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