THE ZOOKEEPER
This is a strange little film, with the only actors of note involved being Sam Neill and Gina McKee. Unlike the similarly named The Zookeeper's Wife (which I reviewed at https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TedSalmon/posts/8E3a8CLFr4h) based on true events in WWII, this is a work of fiction.

There's a fictitious city in a fictitious country which appears to be Eastern European which is being torn apart by some sort of war going on. Our hero is a Zookeeper and whilst all his mates leg-it, he's left holding the baby. Or monkey, actually! There's no income, dwindling resources and a crumbling zoo.

He's got a past, and we see flashes of his past life and family, but it's not really ever explained fully. Just that he's alone and has removed himself from society. He has poor social skills and is just fine attending to his flock. He writes a journal of poetry and musings on the situation, love, life and the world. As things go from bad to worse in terms of the war, a small boy turns up, followed by his mother, and they form an unlikely trio against the soldiers closing in on the resources they have left in order to feed their comrades.

It's a dark, dour, bleak and harrowing film. Some of the acting at times is quite poor, but the main leads are well executed. I'm not sure why Neill was involved in this as it seems like a strange vehicle for such a well known star of the screen, really rather feeling like an Indie outing with European low-budget constraints. Perhaps time out from Jurassic Park'ing! In a similar way, Om Puri (of Gandhi fame) pops up for a few minutes acting as a Vet.

It's not really even a very interesting story, though I guess it's mainly a character study of one man alone battered by life and battered by war, but at his core, a caring soul. It's also about children and war, to some degree as the depicted destroyed life of the little boy in the cast growing up in amongst war raises the issue of kids and guns.

It feels like a story that didn't really need telling, to be honest. I guess we're used to war stories these days being based in fact, not fiction. If you like gritty and harrowing dramas, then you'll like this unpolished and under-produced 90 minutes. I'm not sure which side of the fence I come down on, but I'm glad I watched it in many ways.
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