Film review: Woman in Gold (8 out of 10)

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds in Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds in Woman in Gold
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There have been various films dealing with aspects of the Holocaust and considering the millions murdered during this terrible time there are, no doubt, a great many more stories to tell.

Woman in Gold at its most basic level is based on the true story of one woman’s attempt to retrieve a painting of her aunt, a work of art that was stolen by the Nazis which ended up in an Austrian museum.

It is a powerful story on that level, but is really about the emotional turmoil and horror of the persecution of the Jewish population in Austria at the start of World War II.

The film begins as Maria Altmann, born in Austria but now living in the USA, is at the funeral of her sister in the 1990s. Maria discovers letters in her late sister’s possessions relating to the Woman in Gold painting by Gustav Klimt.

This sets her on a journey to reclaim the famous work of art with the help of a friend’s son, who is a lawyer, struggling with his confidence.

We then follow their voyage as they encounter all manner of legal obstacles in their endeavour.

However, we are also given flashbacks of the distressing times as Maria and her family witness the Germans invade Austria and begin their purge of the Jewish population.

At the centre of the movie is Helen Mirren, in the lead role and her performance is truly superb.

Because of her amazing skill, the director, Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn), happily dwells on his star’s face as Maria goes through a range of emotions.

Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer, whose family also came from Austria, provides good support and Daniel Bruhl as a journalist completes the ‘modern-day’ team.

But one of the film’s highlights is the strength of the acting for the 1940s section, with Tatiana Maslany particularly good as the young Maria.

The whole movie is well constructed and really pulls at the heart-strings.

Overall, this is a cracking film that will leave even the toughest person with a lump in their throat.

Film details: Woman in Gold (12A) 109mins

Director: Simon Curtis

Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol