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Story of the Woman in Gold

Still from the movie Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds (Randol Schoenberg), Helen Mirran (Maria Altmann) and Daniel Bruhl (Hubertus Czernin, Austrian journalist) ~ sourced from official movie website

This week’s cheap movie Tuesday pick was Woman in Gold. From the moment Helen Mirren (Maria Altmann) appears, speaking graveside at the funeral of her sister, throwing dirt on a coffin with a six-pointed star, I am immediately pulled into her story. The movie portrays Maria’s journey in her efforts to reclaim her legacy and seek acknowledgement for what happened to her family in Austria during World War II.

Maria finds letters amongst her sister’s belongs alluding to a lawyer’s attempts in Austria in the 1940s to have five Klimt paintings taken by the Nazis returned to their rightful owners. Now living in Los Angeles, Maria consults her friend’s son, a lawyer by the name of E. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to see if there are enough grounds to sue the Austrian Government. And so begins the several years’ battle to reclaim three landscapes and two portraits of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch Bauer.

They travel from Los Angeles to a conference in Vienna to the Supreme Court of the United States. At first it appears that Randol is just along for the ride – reluctantly in the beginning because she’s a friend of his mother’s and then, after some reflection, for the money. But along the way, it becomes personal for him too; his family’s history is intertwined with Altmann’s, even though they’re generations apart, in ways he’d never realized before.

The best quote from the movie, hands down in my opinion, is Maria’s response after a ruling in their favour: “I always thought there should be more women judges.”

I enjoyed the way Simon Curtis (director) reveals the plot in a series of flashbacks. We’re taken from the present back to a place in time over 60 years ago where a young woman expected to live out her life as the wife of an opera singer. In the end, Woman in Gold is really not about the return of things unlawfully taken. But rather it is about coming to terms with what happened in the quest to seek meaningful justice.

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