The Zookeeper’s Wife parents guide

The Zookeeper’s Wife Parent Guide

Despite some stereotypical depictions of holocaust violence, this movie gives the Zabinski's true story of compassion and courage another chance to inspire and influence the world.

Overall B

As the Nazis invade Poland, the owners of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski (played by Jessica Chasten and Johan Heldenbergh) use their facility to help save hundreds of Jews. This movie is based on a true story.

Release date March 31, 2017

Violence C-
Sexual Content D+
Profanity A-
Substance Use C

Why is The Zookeeper’s Wife rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Zookeeper’s Wife PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking.

Run Time: 127 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Zoologist Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and his animal-whisperer wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) are the owners and keepers of the Warsaw, Poland Zoo. The pair are well respected in society, and their facility is an important part of the community. Yet all that changes after Hitler’s army invades their country, and the Nazis occupy their city.

First the zoo sustains major damages during a bombing raid, and then German soldiers take over the compound and use it as an armory. A lot of animals are killed (some are shot on screen and many bloody carcasses are shown). Those that survive are ordered to be liquidated and used for food and supplies. Desperate to save any she can, Antonina agrees to let Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), a former colleague and head of the Berlin zoo, take the best of their stock back to his institution. But Jan fears that the handsome Lutz Heck, who seems smitten by Antonina’s beauty, is merely eyeing up specimens he wants for his own collection.

As World War II continues, the Zabinski’s also watch as their Jewish neighbors are rounded up and sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Even more desperate to save these endangered humans, the couple decides to use their zoo, which has underground tunnels and cages, to hide as many as they can. Despite the great risk to themselves and their young son (played first by Timothy Radford and later by Val Maloku), the Zabinskis become part of a network of determined rescuers.

Although based on a true story, this movie uses various fictional characters to depict the horrors of the Holocaust. These include a young girl (Shira Haas) who is presumably raped and shown bruised and bleeding, a woman (Efrat Dor) separated from her imprisoned husband (Iddo Goldberg) and a couple of escaped Jews who are found and shot (on screen). Other disturbing depictions include people who have frozen to death, are gunned down, or are burned by fire. Particularly heart wrenching are the ones who sacrifice themselves to protect the more vulnerable, such as small children.

Parents should also be aware that smoking and drinking are frequent in this period drama. Sexual content features some breast nudity (in a non-sexual context), passionate kissing and undressing (married and unmarried couples), and scenes where a woman uses her sex-appeal to manipulate a man. A pair of mating animals is also seen.

Some of the violent portrayals shown here feel like those typically found in stories from this time in history. Nevertheless, they do add a sense of the human suffering going on and emphasize the real message of the film: The power of the one to stand against the many. Jan and Antonina Zabinski were brave in the face of overwhelming evil. Even though their abilities to help seemed small, they still made a big difference in the lives of many individuals. The making of this movie gives their amazing courage another chance to inspire and influence the world.

Directed by Niki Caro. Starring Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Iddo Goldberg. Running time: 127 minutes. Theatrical release March 31, 2017. Updated

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Zookeeper’s Wife rated PG-13? The Zookeeper’s Wife is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking.

Violence: The movie depicts Nazi forces invading and occupying Poland during WWII. Bombs are dropped causing explosions and property damage. Weapon use is frequent. Soldiers shoot people and animals – often shown on screen and/or with blood effects. Bloody caresses of animals and corpses of people are shown. Guards threaten prisoners verbally and physically. People trapped in the ghetto suffer from starvation and cold. A teenaged girl is led away by a couple of soldiers, presumably raped, and then shown with ripped clothing, covered with cuts and bruises, and with blood running down the inside of her legs. Men, woman and children are in constant peril and fear for their safety. The death of family members and the challenges of living in hiding are depicted and discussed. An elephant is distressed when her calf can’t breathe and humans attempt to resuscitate the little one. Women, children and the elderly are put into boxcars and sent to a different prison. Solders use flame throwers to burn buildings and the cries of people are heard. A soldier is caught on fire from a small explosive.

Sexual Content: Married and unmarried couples are seen in bed, and passionate kissing and undressing is shown – sexual relations are implied. Married characters talk to each other in bed, and a woman’s breasts are seen when she rearranges the blankets. A woman puts up with a man’s unwanted touches and later offers herself to him in return for a favor. A teenaged girl is brutally raped (not shown on screen) and suffers emotional distress. Buffalo mating is discussed and indirectly shown. Some sexual innuendo is heard. A woman in labor is shown. A woman wears some cleavage baring clothing.

Profanity: A term of deity is used as an expletive. Name-calling and racial slurs are heard.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are frequently seen smoking and drinking throughout this period film.

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More parents' guide for The Zookeeper’s Wife after the break...

The Zookeeper’s Wife Parents' Guide

Why are the Zabinski’s willing to risk their lives for people of a different faith? Would you be willing to do that to save friends and strangers?

Why is the Zabinski’s decision to start a pig farm fed on garbage from the Jewish Ghetto such a clever way to hide their rescue efforts from the German soldiers? Why do the Jews accept pig meat even though their religion prohibits them from eating it?

Antonina and Jan work in different ways to help the Jews. What challenges does Antonina face as she protects those hiding in her house? What atrocities does Jan witness as he sneaks prisoners out of the ghetto? Although they are both engaged in the same cause, why do they sometimes feel divided? What things are they willing to sacrifice to save these people?

Jan offers to rescue an older gentleman on several occasions, but the man refuses to leave the ghetto. Why? Who is he trying to help? What does he do to try to protect the youngest prisoners? Where do you think the Germans are sending the Jews when they pack them into railway cars?

News About "The Zookeeper’s Wife"

Read about a museum that has been opened in honor of the Zabinski family and the real-life experiences of a Jewish child who took refuge in the zoo.

This movie is based on the book by Diane Ackerman, which recounts the true story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Zookeeper’s Wife movie is July 4, 2017. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: The Zookeeper’s Wife
Release Date: 4 July 2017
The Zookeeper’s Wife releases to home video (Blu-ray) with the following extras:
- Deleted Scenes
- The Making of The Zookeeper’s Wife
- The Zabinski Family

Related home video titles:

Another family hides a Jewish man in The Book Thief. A group of school students learn about the holocaust in the documentary Paperclips.