The soundtrack of a film often plays a subtle yet important role in the movie. Music can set a mood, move along a plot, or further draw in an audience to a scene. In the movie We Bought a Zoo, Icelandic singer and musician Jόnsi composes the soundtrack for the film. For a film about new beginnings, the music Jόnsi creates and adds a feeling of hope to many scenes throughout the movie.
We Bought a Zoo is a movie full of constant setbacks for its main characters. Throughout the movie they have to deal with issues such as the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, and troubled relationships. These obstacles often seem to have the potential to be too large for the character to overcome. As an audience member, however, I never felt the movie would end in doom due to the soundtrack of this film. In his book Understanding Movies, author Louis Giannetti writes, “Beginning with the opening credits, music can serve as a kind of overture to suggest the mood or spirit of the film as a whole” (214). The music throughout We Bought a Zoo provided this film with a spirit of hope which is why I never felt as an audience member the characters would not overcome their hardships.
I found one particular part in the movie where the music blended spectacularly with the scene to fit the film’s mood. The lead role, played by Matt Damon, had just decided to put down a tiger at his zoo after trying to prolong the inevitable for a long time. He was now sitting on his kitchen floor and looking through pictures of his deceased wife on his computer. These were pictures he had not been able to look at since her passing, but it was now time for him to move along in the grieving process just as he had to by allowing the tiger to be put to sleep. As he browses through the picture Jόnsi’s song “Sinking Friendships” plays throughout the scene. The song helps to increasingly feed the emotions of the audience. Doing this can help to make the argument the movie is making more powerful (Lunsford 36). As Damon continues to stare at the pictures, they begin to come to life around him. As this happens there is a bright light which makes a glare on the screen. This is the point the music begins to hit its high point. Jόnsi has a higher pitched and almost angelic voice which draws the viewer into the movie powerfully as Damon imagines his deceased wife dancing around with his children on a family picnic. It helps to bring a mood of sadness yet a feeling of happiness at the same time. Damon is able to move forward in the grieving process by finally being able to look at these pictures, and there is now hope he is realizing his life is not over but simply beginning a new chapter. “Sinking Friendships” has the lyrics “No one knows you, till it’s over.” This furthers the argument the movie is making that hardships do not mean the end of your life. You will keep growing and learning until the day it is all over.
Throughout the movie We Bought a Zoo, the soundtrack accompanying the film helps to further the theme of the film; hope. This was especially shown during the scene in which the song “Sinking Friendships” plays. Due to its strong support of the film’s message, I give the soundtrack of We Bought a Zoo three out of three tickets.