SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today. FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference. AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.
2 ¾ stars
My faith was shaken from the sentences I had read. How was it possible that a textbook could get the story so wrong? I was reading about a famous historic event but the facts were different from what I was taught in school. The book I was reading from had been published in a different country; that was my first clue. Maybe I had grown up naïve but it was not until college that I discovered published words do not always equal absolute truth. The college course I was taking was taught by a history professor who came from a different country. The textbook he was showing us was the one he had used in his studies. From our discussion groups I learned that a country’s citizens could learn a different version of history. The question that came up was how do you tell which version is accurate. Because I was interested in history I had to process this new information; the only thing I kept thinking about was this idea that there were people walking around in the world who formed opinions about countries based on what they learned in school. Just think about it, a person grows up loving or hating a country based on someone else’s interpretation (or purposeful omission) of events. Since that revelation back in my college years, whenever I am reading or watching something that claims to be a true story, I quietly question the validity of it if I did not actually have the opportunity to witness it. When it comes to movies based on true events I take them with a grain of salt, but do not let my doubting mind affect my enjoyment of the unfolding story. As for today’s film based on a true story, it is the first time I have ever heard of such an event . WORKING in occupied Poland for the French Red Cross Mathilde Beaulieu, played by Lou de Laage (Breathe, The Wait), agreed to return with the desperate nun back to her convent. The patient waiting for Mathilde was a pregnant nun. This film festival winning drama had a simple but striking visual look to it. I thought the camera shots complimented the cast which also included Agata Buzek (Redemption, Valerie) as Maria and Agata Kulesza (Ida, Rose) as Mere Abesse. The actors did a wonderful job portraying their parts as the director’s pacing offered enough time for each cast member to shine in the scene. As for the story it is startling, at least for me since I never read about it in my history books. I felt the script did a wonderful job of layering the various components taking place during 1945 Poland and presented all of it as a powerful piece. The subtitles were not a distraction to read, at least for me. Because of the history involved in this story, this foreign film lingered long after I viewed it. I believe there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything; but I have to say, this story could shake up a person’s faith. Polish, French and Russian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
Some of us wear the identity we were given as a young child, while others wear the one they grew into and became when older. A child who was always told they were bad could grow up to be living proof of that statement. Labeled with a derogatory nickname like Chunky or Four Eyes can remain as part of a person’s identity throughout their lifetime; coloring many of their future decisions. Imagine an only child discovering years later their parent had children from a previous marriage; I wonder what that does to someone’s mindset? Last Oscar awards season after I saw the movie Saving Mr. Banks, I read a startling story about the author of Mary Poppins. If I remember correctly she adopted one child from a set of twin boys and never told her son he had a twin brother. Trust me I still cannot believe someone would do such a thing. You know though, they say there is this thing called karma and here is where it played out with the author. When her adopted son was a young adult his twin brother, after years of searching, walked up to him at a bar. As you may have guessed, the adopted son was stunned to discover he had a twin brother. Where I found this scenario to be tragically triumphant, the story in this alluring film festival winning movie was sadly startling. Set in Poland during the 1960s, newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska played Anna who was an orphan who grew up in a convent. The week before she was to take her vows to become a nun, Anna was told she had a living relative and would need to go visit her before her vows. When Anna met her Aunt Wanda, played by Agata Kulesza (Suicide Room, Rose), Anna found out she was not who she believed she was all these years. This black and white drama was beautiful to watch on the big screen. I found the camera angles told the story as well as the dialog; but the fact that the film made a square frame on the rectangular movie screen, creating an extra closeness with the audience, allowed us an intimate glimpse into the life of these 2 women. The acting was outstanding. The producers must have known these actresses were able to take a somewhat sparsely worded script and provide such richness to the scenes and story. What an amazing film and testament to the ability of humans to choose their identity. The dialog was in Polish with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars