Zoo full of love
Zoo in Wroclaw re-opened its freshly renovated bird house, literally like 3 days after I visited it. I guess that means I have to come back more often. We chose a very busy day to go for a walk there, but it felt like some memories in my head came back. This trip called for an evening celebration with one of my beloved films – We bought a Zoo.
Throwing yourself into worthwhile, fruitful hard work that you believe in, as much as you can handle and more, is a kind of luxury not everyone gets to experience.
2021 marks the 10th anniversary of releasing this movie and well, I am here to celebrate the heck out of it. I remember the first time I watched it. It was 2012, because it came out in March (US release was December 2011). It was the year of my final exams in high school. Math was an obligatory one, and well… I am not good at math. I failed the try-outs and we needed like what… 30%? To pass? I was way below. So, I started learning with a tutor. It wasn’t working out for me; I was more stressed.
My parents don’t know about this, but the money they were giving me for the lessons… I spent them on different type of education. I was going to the movies. Every week, for almost 2 months. We watched all kinds of films, including the weirdest one yet: This Must Be the Place.
Szymon is my favorite movie-person. After all, my love for Hans Zimmer and the world of soundtracks started because of him and I know I told you this story some time ago. Ever since we met back… Jeez, was it 2009? 12 years!!! We watched a ton of movies together.
Wait, you wanna know how to shave? I would love to teach you how to shave! Let’s shave!
One of the best movie-nights we had was the premiere of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. It was January, and as a Christmas gift, Symon bought me “wild-card” tickets, so I could pick any movie I wanted. Back then, watching premieres was a big deal to me. Now I am willing to let it go, for the peaceful mind’s sake. But Sherlock called for the opening night. And of course… I was sick. Like full-time flu mixed with a cold kind of sick. I begged my dad to drive me to the cinema – now this wouldn’t fly of course, but 10 years ago life was different.
So, we met for an evening screening and Szymon had a thermos with hot tea for me – just so I could make it through the film. If that is not how best friends are, then I don’t even know anymore! I didn’t remember the movie very well, so eventually we had to watch it again but hey. Was that ever a problem for me?
However, the one movie that was most important to me, is We bought a Zoo. I think Matt Damon had a lot to do with it, being my first film-crush and all, but… The real story behind the screen stole my heart. What else is new? 😊
I’m a big fan of people being exactly who they are.
Sure, there are some differences between real-life Benjamin Mee and Matt Damon’s version – but it was adapted for American industry, and the actual Mr. Mee approved the changes. He is British, that’s for starters. The zoo Mee bought is Dartmoor Zoological Park (Devon, England), whereas the fictional zoo in the film is called Rosemoor Wildlife Park and is located in California.
The key difference is I think the Katherine angle – in the film, she died before they decided to start over and renovate the zoo; in real life she died shortly after they moved in. And well, buying that zoo in the movie was “just like that” kind of a deal. It is not that easy in real life – I checked. And I read the book, so I knew about the struggle. But yes, I was looking for a zoo to buy. There, I said it.
We bought a Zoo is a wonderful, bitter-sweet and warm movie. Single dad, who is trying to raise two drastically different kids – an innocent girl who is stronger than he thinks and a rebellious, misunderstood boy. The only fair way to do this, is to start over. So, when the opportunity comes to buy, renovate and re-open the once glorious zoo, the adventure-addict Benjamin Mee, decides to start living in the story, rather than just tell it.
Oh God, I keep her home one day from school and she gets eaten!
Have you ever wondered what is a pivotal moment for every parent? I know we talked about parenthood last week, but have you? For Benjamin, it was seeing how happy his daughter was, feeding the peacocks. That’s it. All any parent needs to change their mind is that visible happiness, radiating from kids. I see it first-hand with my mum now – she was helping me buy the lamps for Vandalore and we needed one for the stairs. You know, the kind that would give a decent amount of lighting for going up or down AND for the art gallery that will be on the wall. And what did I buy? A goddamn moon. A moon that gives zero practical light whatsoever. But it made me happy, and that was enough.
However, Benjamin saw this as an adventure and a dream – his dream. Dealing with a teenage boy was hard. As every parent, he wanted Dylan (Colin Ford) to know better, to be better. I think it is a common problem with dads and sons – it’s a silent, unspoken competition or rivalry even. Anyway – it is hard. But this is also the society we live in, where boys must be tough and strong and always be the sole provider of… Basically anything. Times are changing and hopefully the pressure will be gone too.
Seeing that father-son struggle, mixed with grief Benjamin was trying to hide got me most. The scenes, when he was going through the family pictures twice, was technically a great transformation of the character. But from the emotional, human being point of view, it was heartbreaking. I know damn well how hard it is to go through pictures of family members, who are no longer with us.
It is what it is. Sometimes you don’t know what it is until you see what it is, you know? Once you see what it is then you can figure out what it is. You understand?
One of the best things I love about We bought a Zoo, apart from filming Greenfield Ranch in Hidden Valley, Thousand Oaks, California, where the production created a (not so) mini zoo; is the soundtrack. It is just perfect – literally! Perfect amount of joy, sadness, grief, adventure… And there is only one artist that can do all that. Jónsi, the lead singer of Sigur Rós (side note, this is my favorite song and as far as Jónsi goes, this is my favorite live performance of Sinking Friendships) created something so simple, yet beautiful. I think I still have the score on the CD somewhere…
I like to call this particular soundtrack a complete one. There are a lot of them out there that suit the film, but it’s really hard to create something so… Mystical and uncanny, yet familiar and warm; something that completes the picture.
My mum liked this film, but called it “nothing too special” – and that is yet another thing we disagree on! For me, it was (and still is) very emotional. It teaches understanding, respect, the art of letting go and the twisted ways love works.
All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage and great things will happen…
Let’s talk about the best lesson in this film – the 20 seconds rule. Ever since I heard it in the trailer, it became my favorite quote and one of the things to live by. 20 seconds to be brave, insane and just go for it. I think this rule is better for introverts, than the 5 seconds rule (I used it for creating good habits, like waking up at 5:30 every day or going for a run even if I felt lazy AF).
How true is it, you ask? Isn’t it too much time, that gives room for hesitation? Trust me, even if you go with the “whatever seconds” variant, you will find the space for second guessing. And yes, I will always and forever go with what Matt Damon said. Deal with it!
After all, it simply narrows down to the one question: why not? People dealing with anxiety often come up and overthink the “what if” – but only the negative one. “What if I am not good enough”? Or maybe “what if I am an imposter?” Want me to go on? Look, I’ve been there. I am there. Now, how about we strike down that negative and let us swim different kind of circles in the fishbowl?
Why would an amazing woman like you even talk to someone like me?
Let’s use the zoo analogy this time, to describe our minds. It sure is a galaxy, with multiple gardens, fences… But what if we think about it as a zoo. Who doesn’t like zoo?! There are plenty of animals – dangerous ones, the kind that need to be under control. To make them comfortable, the zoo-keepers build bigger enclosures and higher fences. Yet still, they are there; roaring and chuffing at you. Those are the negative thoughts.
Other parts of that zoo have smaller courtyards for fluffy animals, like goats or even peacocks. We often walk by them, as they were never there. These are the positive things. Now, what if you became the best-selling author by 30? What if you make that dream come true sooner than later? Why don’t we use the power of overthinking to calm our minds (don’t confuse it with getting your hopes up), to give them something sweet to think about?
I know, I know why – it is easier said than done. But we can try with baby steps, right? Just like with all the fences, we can build our zoo and fill it with dreams, wishes and a healthy dose of realism. Then the tigers and lions and even bears won’t be that scary anymore.
You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
We bought a Zoo is my film for… Whenever I feel defeated or alone – which is a pretty big mood these days. The “defeated” part at least. It helps me put things into perspective and watching Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson on the big screen makes me happy. Maybe it wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but life would be so boring if we would get them every day.
It is a gem, if you think about it. And for sure makes you fantasize: what if I bought a zoo…?