Art meets war in Woman in Gold as director Simon Curtis retells the true story of a woman forced to face her demons in order to regain what’s left of her Austrian family heritage. Leads Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds are left to do their thing, as they pair up for a poignant yet harrowing take on the scars left by WWII.
Maria Altmann (Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, decides to take the Austrian government to court in order to reclaim the world famous painting, Woman in Gold, which had belonged to her family before it was stolen by the Nazis during their rise to power. Desperate to put her mind at ease and obtain some sense of justice for her family’s suffering during the war, she enlists the help of down-on-his-luck lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Reynolds) who’s own Jewish heritage pulls him close to the action. As they both gear up for a legal battle which sets the precedent for art ownership all over the world, they also come face to face with some of the ugly truths which haunted their ancestors.
Past and present meet seamlessly throughout Woman in Gold as flashbacks weave in and out so fluidly, the effect is almost natural. No stone is left unturned, as the artistic flick frequently goes on tangents, providing every detail and haunting memory as our lead Maria experiences them. Having said that, the story doesn’t wander off either, neatly keeping all the plot points tied up in a nice little bow.
Despite the very justifiable doom and gloom, the humerous banter between Mirren and Reynolds gets a real chance to shine between the blow-by-blow harsh reality of the legal battle and occasional anti-Semitism escalating around them. The unlikely pair are a charming on-screen duo, and though Reynolds executes a stellar performance, Mirren took the gold (no pun intended) with her character’s no nonsense attitude and cutting sense of humour in the face of adversity.
Curtis’s latest walk through the world of art is a prime example of how paintings can be as hardcore as the stream of bad-asses walking away from explosions. There’s a real personal touch here, one that Mirren and Reynolds seem to bring the best out of, as they uncover a more unexplored angle of the war that is not only underestimated, but also undervalued.