Skip to main content

Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Zabinski in The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Anne Marie Fox

2 out of 4 stars

Title
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Written by
Angela Workman
Directed by
Niki Caro
Starring
Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

You may feel you've been swept all the way back to Out of Africa: The Zookeeper's Wife opens in a sunny villa, where a child slumbers beside two lion cubs. But soon, Antonina's idyllic life as the chatelaine of the Warsaw zoo is overturned by Nazis and the endearing animal images are replaced with a run-of-the-mill Holocaust movie in which she runs a safe house for escaping Jews. Jessica Chastain can't figure out a woman whose initial awkwardness and anxiety quickly give way to heroic sang-froid, any more than Angela Workman's script (an adaptation of the book by Diane Ackerman) can explain why some people choose to save others. As her oddly unengaged zoologist husband, the Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh appears to be working in a different movie altogether. Instead, Chastain gets some chemistry going with Daniel Bruehl, as a Nazi commander with a taste for animal husbandry. But the sex meanders from the grotesque – a scene where he rubs against her while two bison mate – to the surprisingly tame in a film that prefers tastefully underplaying Holocaust clichés to building its own legitimate drama.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter