Woman in Gold – BBC1

A glossy true-story movie about family artworks looted by the Nazis

Helen Mirren plays elderly Austrian émigré Maria Altmann in Woman in Gold, a glossy true-story movie about her quest to retrieve family artworks looted by the Nazis.

It’s a fascinating story, but makes for an uneven mix of historical thriller, courtroom drama and odd-couple comedy on screen. Mirren turns on the cranky charm and forms an entertaining double act with Ryan Reynolds as her American lawyer Randy Schoenberg – though the script isn’t quite sharp enough to give their rapport the heart and humour it deserves.

Mirren and Reynolds’ mismatched-duo double act kicks off when earnest young Schoenberg takes up LA resident Altmann’s cause in the late 1990s. They travel to Vienna, but meet intransigence from the Austrian authorities at every turn when they try to retrieve her family’s art, including a 1907 portrait of her aunt by Gustav Klimt.

The visit stirs Altmann’s memories of her life in the city before she fled Austria as a young woman (Tatiana Maslany) and these flashback scenes – leading up to her hair’s breadth escape from the Nazis as a rising tide of anti-Semitism engulfs the country – prove far more gripping and engrossing feature than the latter-day episodes.

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