My first encounter with Dr. Jane Goodall was in the second grade. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the mothers of students dressed as famous women throughout history, one playing the part of Dr. Goodall. It was then I learned about her work and love for animals.
Fourteen years later, Dr. Goodall still floats into and out of out my mind, usually triggered by an image of a chimpanzee, gorilla, monkey, or similarly, a large group of male college students at a house party. But in reflection, I had only skimmed the surface on what there is to know about Jane Goodall.
“Jane” reflects on Goodall’s life with a delicate yet intimate touch. Beginning at her arrival in Gombei, Africa, the documentary creates a clear image of just how crucial Jane’s discoveries were, and how undiluted her aspirations were. Carrying us alongside her, Goodall narrates the film, outlining her hopes, frustrations, accomplishments, and struggles. You are met with a side of Jane that could only be presented in a manner as soft and enveloping as her aged voice.
Before her exploration in Gombei, there was little known about chimpanzees. Working as an assistant to a scientist, Jane set off to examine these creatures, hoping to learn more about their species and to look for ties to mankind. Goodall’s research revolutionized the thinking of the natural world, providing more insight than ever before. Despite her work being undercut for her being a woman, Jane’s relentless work provided a much-needed foundation for evolutionary theory.
From her first steps in Africa, to finally being accepted by the chimpanzees of Gombei, to raising her child in the Serengeti, Goodall maps out her life with the utmost sincerity. The love she felt for her husband, the pain she felt watching chimps die, the joy that sprung from the birth of a baby chimpanzee, and the sadness that ensued when she sent her son off to school in England. Her life, and feelings, are painted with the purest colors.
It is uncommon to find a documentary that makes your chest feel warm and full. The tenderness that was felt throughout the film that could only stem from a genuine source of kindness. My love for nature and animals was re-sparked after watching this film, making the concrete sidewalk and rushing taxis of New York feel strange for a bit.
Goodall forwent a “normal” life, one filled with consistency and routine, for her unwavering love of animals. Parting with a hopeful plea for a more eco-conscious future, it is clear the Dr. Jane Goodall is far too good for any of us. The film is now playing.