Helen Mirren leads the cast in this true to life account of Maria Altmann’s fight against the Austrian government to retrieve a painting which belonged to her family. The iconic masterpiece entitled Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt was confiscated by the Nazis when they invaded Austria. The painting which is oil and gold on canvas is considered to be the artists greatest work. The subject matter is Adele Bloch-Bauer the wife of a wealthy business man. The Austrian government refer to her portrait as the Mona Lisa of Austria but Maria Altmann sees it simply as a painting of her aunt.
Jewish Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann escaped to America in search of a new life and now runs a small dress shop. The majority of her family were slaughtered by Hitler and all their possessions confiscated. Learning of the theft by the Nazis of five Gustav Klimt paintings from her family when her sister dies, she enlists the help of the somewhat inexperienced young lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) and together they take on the Austrian government in an attempt to recover the paintings.
Aided by an Austrian journalist (Daniel Brühl) the duo retrieve her sisters will and have her case opened for review with the government authorities. The movie flashes back and forth between the 1930s and the late 1990’s when the fight to retrieve the paintings began. The Austrian government resist all attempts to restore the paintings and there is a suggested underlying element of the past should be left in the past.
Randol Schoenberg who was initially sceptical of any chances of winning the case becomes a champion for the cause. As we see his character develop he makes personal sacrifices in his own family life and becomes centre stage in a fight against the Austrian government. It’s a welcome departure from the majority of his more lightweight movies where he relies more on looks and likeability. Helen Mirren is of course spectacular as Maria and gives an emotional and dignified portrayal of a woman who has suffered incomprehensible hardship in her life. At the same time you can feel a warmth that resonates between her and Randol as they forge their way forward. A challenge which leads them to suing the Austrian government in US courts and ultimately taking their fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
There’s a bit of something for everyone in this movie and it will no doubt appeal to those with an interest in art history. A mix of courtroom drama, heart wrenching historical journey and a compelling story of David versus Goliath gives Woman in Gold a 4 out of 5 for me.
Released on Friday April 10th 2015. Check out the trailer below.