There was very little promotion for this film, I only saw one advertisement in the form of a poster on the back of a weekend magazine. There were no trailers on TV (none that I came across anyway) or even in the cinema in the weeks leading up to its release. So I wasn’t entirely sure what the film was about, but due to it’s main cast (Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds) I was interested in seeing it.
The film is based on a true story following Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee who many years after her escape from Austria during WW2 is now attempting to reclaim her possessions that were taken by the Nazi’s. Most importantly is a painting of her Aunt Adele, painted by Gustav Klimt and named The Woman in Gold (pictured right), which was taken by the Nazi’s and now resides in the Austrian State Gallery. Upon Maria’s sister’s death she uncovers evidence that the painting and a few others rightfully belongs to her and so starts a long legal battle to recover her possessions. Maria is helped by a friend’s son Randol Schoenberg (Reynolds) a struggling lawyer with a young baby. Taking on the case puts Randol under extreme pressure and a lot of debt but his own family connections to Austria push him to fight for the paintings’ return.
The cast of the film are superb. Of course Helen Mirren is an acting legend but here she goes above and beyond to connect the audience to the story being told. You can see her pain and grief at what her family were put through during the war and just how much tole the fight for her aunt’s picture takes on her. As the legal processes take place and we learn more about the painting and it’s importance to Maria we are given flashbacks to when Maria was a young girl and later to the start of the Nazi reign when her family were put under house arrest. These flashbacks really help you to see why Maria must have this painting returned to her and it also helps to cement the relationship between the audience and Maria as we learn more about her past.
(Pictured: a young Maria with her beloved Aunt Adele in one of the flashbacks)
Ryan Reynolds is more known for his comedy and action roles, certainly that is all I’ve seen him in before, but here the role of Randol is very serious. He is a lawyer fighting to be heard in a big company headed by his ruthless boss (the brilliant Charles Dance!) and taking on this case jeopardises his job and his family life. Katie Holmes play Randol’s wife, a small part but she is great in it. I feel like we don’t see much of Katie these days, hopefully this is the start of her acting comeback! Ryan is brilliant in this role however, you really connect to his character and his bemusement at first as to why Maria chose him to help her, and then his determination to succeed in the mission.
As the film progresses you will be entirely enthralled and willing the pair to beat their many oppositions. There are moments where the legal jargon goes slightly over your head (for me anyway) but not enough for you to lose the gist of what is happening. There are also moments of humour thrown in which helps to lighten the mood a little. The connection between Mirren and Reynolds is great, they really work well together and this makes the story all the more loveable.
Overall, I loved this film. It’s one that will leave you thinking about the realities of the war, for as the end credits point out, there are well over 100,000 possessions taken by the Nazi’s that are still to be returned to their rightful owners. Some of these possessions may not mean much but for the likes of Maria and her family, the picture of her Aunt means everything and to have it taken from you is horrible. The way that the writers have taken on this story is beautifully done and if you’re anything like me you’ll be sobbing through the last ten minutes! I would really recommend this film, it’s a shame it wasn’t released during the awards season as I feel like it could have been recognised for many, and rightly so!