Jessica Chastain can be seen on the big screen this December with one of her most ferocious performances to date in “Miss Sloane,” but she’ll be dialing back on the ruthlessness next year for “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” Adapted from Diane Ackerman’s bestselling novel, the non-fiction drama stars Chastain as Antonina Żabińska, a Polish woman who helped aid in the protection of Jews during World War II by hiding them in the Warsaw Zoo. Her efforts were supported by her husband and zoo director, Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh).
During the height of the war, the couple managed to keep the zoo operating by turning it into a pig farm. They made routine trips to the Warsaw ghetto to smuggle refugees to safety, hiding them in animal cages and telling authorities they were simply in town to collect food for their animals. The couple ultimately aided in the rescue of hundreds of displaced Jews, and they were recognized by the State of Israel as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations for their heroic actions.
While many of our World War II films take us to the front of the battlefield or into the horror of the Holocaust, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” promises a more inspirational tale of courage and bravery. Antonina Żabińska is a different kind of war hero, and in what looks to be a rousing performance full of sensitivy by Chastain, hopefully a ton of more people will become familiar with her incredible story.
Focus Features will release “The Zookeeper’s Wife” in theaters March 31, 2017. Watch the first trailer below.