Readers of MillersTime often say they don’t live in an area that has all these small films I frequently review/preview. Generally, there is enough written about the mainstream, popular movies so I see no need to add to that chatter.
Here are two films, one of which is in the larger theaters now, Woman in Gold, and one, Testament of Youth, that will be released by Sony Pictures in the US on June 5th and will, I hope, get wide distribution.
Both films have to do with fall out from war, WWI & WWII. Both films are based on true stories.
Woman in Gold ****
As we walked out of this film, Ellen said, “Not an awesome film but an awesome story.” Leave it to Ellen to capture in one sentence what it usually takes me a number of paragraphs and many more words to say.
I’m not sure why this film doesn’t quite match the level of the story it portrays. Perhaps it’s the script or direction. The acting is good enough. After all, Helen Mirren is a wonderful actress and is a pleasure to have as the main character, and Ryan Reynolds, as her young, inexperienced lawyer, also performs well.
The story of Woman in Gold involves a 1907 painting (Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt) that the Nazi’s had seized from a wealthy Viennese family in 1938. After the war, the Austria government gained possession of the portrait and refused to return it to the family.
In 1998, Maria Altman (Mirren), a Jewish WWII survivor, attempted to retrieve her families possessions from the Austrian government. With the assistance of a rather inexperienced young lawyer (Reynolds), what happens in Altman’s journey to reclaim the painting is a fascinating story. I’ll leave the details for your viewing and discovery.
Four stars because of the (true) story the film tells.
The painting itself can now be see in New York at the Neue Gallery. We saw it on a recent trip to NYC, thanks to the suggestion of DP. It’s indeed a lovely work of art:
Testament of Youth*****
What Woman in Gold was not quite able to do, Testament of Youth does splendidly.
In a story taken from the memoir, diaries, and correspondence of Vera Brittain, we see World War I through a woman’s eyes. It’s her personal story as well.
The setting is 1914, and Brittain is a young, intelligent, strong minded woman who is fighting her wealthy family (primarily her parents) to get beyond the rigid roles set out for her. Ultimately, with the help of her bother, she is allowed to apply to Oxford and is seemingly on her way to a very different life than what had been laid out for her. Then the war breaks out, and everything changes.
Brittain is drawn into the war, and by its end, she is no longer the innocent, single focused woman she was at its outbreak. Who she is at her core — driven, dedicated, and unconventional — doesn’t change. Now more mature, more empathetic, and wiser as a result of her war experiences, she has become indeed a remarkable woman. When the film ends, you wonder (at least the five of us who saw it Sunday wondered) why you have never heard of this woman.
No other spoilers about the story.
But everything seems right about Testament of Youth: the acting (led by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander but well supported by other known and unknown actors) is spot on and so too is the direction (James Kent). It is beautifully filmed, and the story slowly and deliberately builds in a way that you are drawn into not only Brittain’s story but also into a view of WWI that though familiar somehow seems fresh.
Within a few hours of seeing the film, I was reading about Vera Brittain and had ordered her memoir.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
PS – Our Sunday film club rated A Brilliant Young Mind 98+% (Good/Excellent) and the Recommendation rate was 100%. Put it/ keep it on your list.