The more contemporary aspect, in which Goodall copes with the dissolution of her marriage and the rank sexism that she shoulders in the newspapers that give equal weight to her appearance as they do her research, is what makes Jane more than a well-made nature doc. The divide that ends her marriage to Van Lawick is his desire for her to come with him to a new assignment in the Serengeti while she wants to continue her work at the Tanzanian Gombe park. The idea that he would put his career on hold for her doesn’t occur to him, while she is assumed to do the same for him. She talks about her dreams of being a naturalist as a child, in which she had to dream herself as a boy because there weren’t any women doing that kind of work. Van Lawick getting his way might’ve meant that future female naturalists would’ve had to do the same.
Morgen puts all aspects of Jane together in an intimate package, making it feel thorough despite it leaving out the decades of productive work Goodall would do after the film ends. She comes off as an impressive and authoritative expert in her chosen field, but also in possession of an inviting spirit and an honest sense of humor. Pure admiration for a documentary subject isn’t required, but when it’s so obviously warranted, it doesn’t make a film worse. There are few individuals more deserving of such a relevant and endearing centerpiece. A-