Anyone who has had the good fortune of meeting Jessica Chastain will reiterate what I’m about to inform you: this woman puts Gandhi to shame when it comes to being kind. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since the beginning of my film-obsessed years, so being able to express that to her–as well as shaking her hand–after her Q&A was the high point of my life (events like getting married or children being born will most definitely not eclipse this). Even as security tried to prevent it, she stayed around until everyone got an autograph or a picture. That should tell you all you need to know.
As for the film itself, it’s unfortunately not very good. It’s a fascinating true story about several incredibly brave people, but the telling of that story is ponderous. There is so much story to get through that very little is done by the way of character development, and as a result, the Jews taken in by Antonina (Chastain) are given very little personality. In addition, much of the runtime focuses on the relationship between Antonina and Daniel Bruhl’s (surprise!) Nazi officer character, and this relationship in particular is nowhere near as interesting as the world around them. The film isn’t devoid of powerful moments–especially involving the animals–and Chastain is committed to the role; she’s very good at conveying both vulnerability and resolve in her performances, and she can cry with the best of them. However, she can’t quite make up for all of the film’s shortcomings, no matter how much this story needed to be told.