'Jane' film review: Amazing, complete portrait of pioneering scientist Jane Goodall
This breathtaking documentary "Jane" (now playing in select cities) presents renowned primatologist Jane Goodall's story in her own words with her own footage - that of a fresh-faced researcher dealing with the challenges of her groundbreaking studies as well as the demands of her roles as a wife and mother.
In short: Previously unseen footage reveals the early years of Jane Goodall's trailblazing chimpanzee research in the jungles of Gombe during the 1960s.
A pure and more comprehensive retrospective of Goodall's cumulative career would, in itself, make for an intriguing documentary, but "Jane" wisely focuses the scope of this story in ways that successfully distill what makes her and her research incredible. Goodall was a single woman in 1960 - a secretary without a college education - venturing out alone into the jungle to observe what no other human had ever successfully observed. She had some experience observing animals in their natural habitat, but no scientists had successfully tracked and observed chimpanzees. To many educated folk, she was vastly unqualified, inexperienced and attempting to document what none has been able to observe.
The documentary's first-rate footage takes the audience along with Goodall on her first venture into the African wilderness. The incredible cinematography gives "Jane" a scope that is truly grand and intimate - it perfectly frames her grand adventure in the gorgeous Gombe jungles while also capturing her personal journey as a burgeoning scientist. The footage of Goodall working in the field remains remarkable even in 2017 because it shows the world not just the intricacies of chimpanzee behavior - which was her primary duty - but also her evolving relationship with the animals.
"Jane" chronicles her frustrations and her dogged determination to learn what no one had known before: chimpanzee behavior in their natural habitat. The world knows Goodall now only in the context of her successful research and her amazing discoveries - this documentary reveals the dangers and difficulties of her work and how she forged a relationship with wild and thoughtful animals. The film also reveals how Goodall's observations affected her personal life - and how her role as a world-renowned researcher changed the life of a girl who only dreamt of living among animals.
Final verdict: Beautifully composed, this documentary is infused with a sense of adventure as well as the true wonder of discovery. "Jane" elegantly presents the spirit of her life's work while also telling the multi-faceted story of a passionate scientist's pioneering work.
"Jane" is now playing in select cities. This biographical documentary is unrated and has a running time of 90 minutes.