Film Review: Woman in Gold

Photo by Telegraph Online.

Photo by Telegraph Online.

Woman in Gold, directed by Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell, is based on the true story of Maria Altmann. In 2004 she fought the Austrian government to gain back Gustav Klimt’s painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer after it had been seized by the Nazis in Vienna. Altmann, played by Academy Award winner Helen Mirren, was a Jewish refugee who fled to America with her husband to avoid persecution. Her friend’s son, E. Randol Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds, assists as Altmann’s lawyer.

The story is fascinating, as I did not realise there were so many legal loopholes to jump through for Holocaust survivors to reclaim their past possessions. The film is led by two talented, well-known actors, as well as a great supporting cast. In particular, I felt Tatiana Maslany’s portrayal of a young Maria was exceptional. Maslany’s expressive face when she and her husband are running away from the Nazis speaks volumes about how terrifying and distressing the situation was. Considering she is a Canadian actress, her Austrian accent was very good.

Helen Mirren as the older Maria was equally as emotive, especially in the scenes were she is recalling her traumatic past. However, sometimes her accent slipped into her English one. Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of Schoenberg painted him as fairly unlikeable at first, with the character at one point saying ‘I only did it for the money.’ His detachment lingers for most of the film until he has a change of heart and breaks down.

The plot had potential to have more impact, and was a little stunted in places. The beginning felt too rushed, with Altmann at first declining to go to Austria for very valid reasons, only to decide two minutes later that she had to go. I understand that the story had to keep up a fairly fast pace, but it didn’t sit right with me. It felt too rushed and swept characterisation under the carpet.

Overall I really enjoyed this film. I left the cinema feeling grateful that I have never had to endure the hardships experienced by Jewish refugees, and hopeful that no one will ever have to again.

Catch Woman in Gold at Curzon, Canterbury from Saturday 11th – Thursday 16th April.


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