The Zookeeper’s Wife, Rated PG-13

Starring Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Bruhl

Austin Family Critical Rating: 3½ of 5 stars

Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on a remarkable true story as well as a book by Diane Ackerman, tells the story of Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), the owners of the Warsaw Zoo during World War II. After Poland is invaded by Germany, the zoo is nearly destroyed, and many of the animals are killed. In the midst of this strife, Antonina and Jan concoct a plan to help Polish Jews – by hiding them in the zoo.

One of the many impressive aspects of The Zookeeper’s Wife are the animals themselves. If any of the animals are the product of visual effects, it certainly isn’t apparent – they couldn’t appear more realistic. Chastain’s performance is also noteworthy – it’s rare that the actress doesn’t give a great performance, whether in a supporting role (The Tree of Life, Interstellar) or as the unequivocal lead (Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane). She’s riveting here once again, as are costars Heldenbergh and Daniel Bruhl (who plays a Nazi infatuated with Antonina).

The third act of the film feels a little overstuffed – it seems like it could have benefitted from a slightly longer running time – but I suspect The Zookeeper’s Wife will leave audiences satisfied nonetheless.

The film is rated PG-13, and it certainly doesn’t shy away from the horrific nature of the Holocaust – there’s a fair share of violence in the picture. Still, everything is done in a very tasteful manner, and I’d say the film is appropriate for anyone 12 and older.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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