More Than Just Chimps: A Review of Jane

Occasionally, I see, hear, or read something so moving, I need to share it. On Sunday, I saw the new film, Jane, and knew it was one of those things. Jane is a new documentary film about Jane Goodall, famous for her early studies of chimpanzees. It features personal interviews with Goodall herself and features never-before-seen footage from the National Geographic archives. 

Jane / National Geographic documentary on Jane Goodall

It’s been a long time since I watched a film that left me feeling so incredibly inspired. While watching Jane, I cried a few times, but also caught myself smiling. Going in, I assumed I would love the film. Growing up I was fascinated by Jane Goodall, as I was completely enamored by monkeys and apes. I expected to learn more about her life and work from the documentary. What I didn’t expect was to come away with so much to think about in my own life.

Jane is one of those rare souls who knows what they want to do their entire life, and then just go and do it. She is astoundingly unapologetic about what she’s chosen to devote her life to and the choices she has made because of it. Her passion is evident. As a person who has constantly flitted from one idea to the next, never able to settle in one place for long (Elizabeth Gilbert calls folks like me hummingbirds), I admire Goodall’s focus.

The film is made up mainly of footage from her former husband, Hugo van Lawick, a famed nature photographer. The footage itself is unbelievably beautiful, and even if Jane’s story doesn’t interest you, the visuals alone make the film worth it. The shots were both intimate and awe-inspiring, and gave the story so much more depth. As Jane spoke over scenes of animals playing in the plains of the Serengeti, I felt such a deep longing to go somewhere new, and explore the world in a different way. It all felt so poignant.

While she certainly doesn’t sugarcoat the hardships she faced both personally and professionally, or the things she saw in the wild, Jane Goodall’s passion comes through so purely, that you can’t help but feel inspired by her. This film, and Jane Goodall’s life, is one that I’ll be reflecting on for quite a while, I think.

Click here to find a showing near you. If you’re local to Portland, you can see Jane at Cinema 21 (616 NW 21st Ave.) through November 9. If you want more Goodall goodness, check out this wonderful interview.