Based on an inspiring true story of a woman who rescued an elephant from the Belfast Zoo, Zoo showcases bravery in Belfast 1941.
Tom Hall (Art Parkinson) has to step it up when his zookeeper father, George Hall (O’Hare) decides to enlist in World War 2. Tom is only twelve-years-old so this is asking a lot of him. It’s just Tom and his mother, Emily Hall (Amy Huberman) with George now overseas. Emily works as a nurse so she’s tending to the sick and injured.
George takes the fight overseas, his family is left to look after the zoo, which now features a young elephant, Buster. Tom takes it upon himself to rescue Buster after the German air raids threaten the zoo. This came as a result of a one-line directive issued by The Ministry of Public Security: “All potentially dangerous animals must be destroyed.” All in all, some 33 animals were shot dead including one hyena, six wolves, one puma, one tiger, one black bear, one Barbary lion, two polar bears, one lynx, and a giant rat.
Buster was the sole animal that managed to escape death and survive the war. This is because of Tom rising up to save his life and bringing in help from his friends, Jane Berry (Emily Flain) and Peter (Ian O’Reilly). The three classmates were able to come together and get Buster to a safe place. The safe place came by way of the eccentric Denise Austin (Wilton). If not for the four of them, Buster would have been a goner. George managed to come home safely from war and take his rightful place as zookeeper once again. For Tom, of course, there was only one place where he was destined to work.
The film does right by the 1940s time period with credit going to costume designer Susan Scott and production designer John Leslie. If you can’t capture the early 40s correctly, the film wouldn’t have been able to work. Cinematographer Damien Elliott beautifully captures the country. There are some beautiful sights to say the least.
While both films are set during World War 2, the film should not be confused with the Jessica Chastain-starring film, The Zookeeper’s Wife. The latter film deals with rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. While most war stories focus on the survivors of the Holocaust or even soliders at war, this offers a different type of story. Ultimately, Zoo is a film that allows us to watch bravery on display in a time of crisis.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Colin McIvor
CAST: Art Parkinson, Penelope Wilton, Toby Jones, Ian O’Reilly, Ian McElhinney, Amy Huberman, and Damian O’Hare
Following the world premiere during the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival, Samuel Goldwyn Films released Zoo in select theaters and VOD platforms on June 8, 2018.