Pros: based on a real story of salvation; Animals often appear on the screen; story about friendship Cons: some scenes are quite naive “Zoo” / Zoo
Genre historical drama
Directed by Colin McIvor
Starring Art Parkinson (Tom), Toby Jones (Charlie), Penelope Wilton (Denis), Ian O’Reilly (Pete), Emily Flaine (Jane), James Stockdale (Micky), Amy Huberman (Tom’s mother), etc.
Wee Buns Companies, Ripple World Pictures
Year of release 2017 (in Ukraine 2019)
The plot takes place in 1941 in Northern Ireland. Belfast begins to be bombed by German aircraft. Children and women learn to hide in bomb shelters, and men are called to the front. Schoolboy Tom is worried that his father is also going to war and leaving the animals unattended at the zoo where he worked as a veterinarian. Tom, feeling attached to the animals, continues to come to the zoo. He is especially interested in a little elephant named Buster, who finds himself in danger due to military operations. When the boy realizes that Buster may die, he comes up with a rescue plan. True, to implement it, Tom will need the help of children whom he had not previously considered his friends, and the help of one adult.
The drama “Zoo” was first shown in 2017 as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. And now, with some delay, it hit the Ukrainian box office. Apparently, the film does not cause much excitement among viewers; many know nothing about it (the British-Irish film did not have a big promotional campaign).
It’s easy to imagine that not many people would choose “Zoo” if there was a Hollywood movie next to it on the bill (especially “The Lion King”, which will appear there next week). And this is in vain, because the picture can make you feel and certainly arouse sympathy for both the characters and the animals that will often flash in the frame.
Due to the military theme, the film may seem difficult to understand. It’s not all doom and gloom. The film does raise issues of loss of loved ones and fear of military action, but the emphasis is on friendship and feelings of affection. For this reason, some episodes of Zoo are memorable for their naivety.
Writer-director Colin McIvor has previously worked in television on stories where there are no adults. In the case of Zoo, he continues to keep children at the center of the story. Although, interestingly, in real life, the rescue of the baby elephant was initiated by an adult zoo employee. In McIvor’s film, she became an elderly woman who leads a reclusive lifestyle. From the point of view of an artistic film adaptation, such a transformation is quite possible, especially since the real facts will be shown to the viewer along with the credits.
The children’s rescue team is led by Tom, played by actor Art Parkinson (those who watched Game of Thrones will immediately recognize him as Rickon Stark). He is well given the role of a character who gradually takes leadership into his own hands, gaining courage and audacity that is not inherent in him under ordinary circumstances.
Parkinson is accompanied by novice actors: Ian O’Reilly, who plays a good-natured strongman, and Emily Flayn, who has become the embodiment of a lonely, brave girl. Also worth mentioning is James Stockdale, a young actor with a disability who reminds us that children are different, and they can all make friends.
Among the adult performers, Toby Jones (Arnim Zola from the Captain America films) appears on screen. And also Penelope Wilton (known from the series “Downton Abbey”), who played the same recluse who in reality was a zoo employee.
In general, “Zoo” is filmed in the darkish tones characteristic of British and Irish cinema. There is a specific atmosphere in the film, but it cannot be called oppressive. Even in the conditions of air raids, the heroes of the film manage to make plans and help those who are weaker than them. For children, this is a small elephant that it is impossible not to become attached to while watching the film. By the way, most of the scenes with him and other animals were filmed at the real Belfast Zoo.
“Zoo” is a good film for family viewing with older children. It doesn’t have Hollywood scale, but it has a special soulfulness