Hidden story of justice in Nazi Germany

If there are two things that I would never think to put in the same context it is Ryan Reynolds and the Holocaust. Apparently, Simon Curtis thought otherwise while casting Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds as stars of his new film, “Woman in Gold.” Mirren plays a Jewish refugee, Maria Altmann, and Reynolds plays a struggling lawyer, Randol Schoenberg.

Schoenberg helps Altmann in her effort to reclaim a family heirloom, a beautiful portrait of her favorite aunt, from the Austrian government that was stolen by the Nazis. The conflict arises as the artwork is considered a priceless piece in the Austrian museum. The two do not immediately hit it off, as Schoenberg is quite sarcastic and Altmann has no time for his jokes. However, a bond is formed throughout their trials and successes with the Austrian government.

Altmann is initially hesitant to go back to Austria because she does not want to relive her past memories that are displayed throughout the film.

Curtis provides viewers with emotional, heart-wrenching glimpses into Altmann’s life in Austria during the time of Hitler. Clips show the Nazi army parading through the town, saluting as they march through the streets of Austria with the Nazi symbols showcased and celebrated for the world to see. At one point, Altmann’s family, a well-of group, is watching out their window at Nazi guards, ordering the Jewish neighbors to scrub cobblestone with acid. There are several scenes just like this — portraying the oppression and mistreatment towards Jews — and each one adds depth and context to the tale.  The anguish and terror of Altmann’s family as they were violated and stripped of their dignity could move anyone to tears. It is later revealed that Altmann leaves her family, en route to America before they are taken by the Nazis.

In-between the glimpses into the past are interactions among Altmann, Schoenberg and the Austrian government. Needless to say, the Austrians are not bending over backwards to return the painting to its rightful owner.

The new film has three of the elements required of a “must-see.” These elements are: an important message, clean writing and successful execution.

One critique is that the film is filled with various subplots that tend to confuse if one is not paying attention at all times. Alas, the subplots add necessary details and character to a depressing topic.

It is fair to say that many present-day films do not successfully portray the desperation, disparity and sincere horror of the Holocaust. While this may be impossible, since many present-day directors did not experience the Holocaust, Curtis makes an attempt and deserves an A for effort. The time and setting of the film is an interesting contrast among present-day Los Angeles, present-day Austria and Austria during the 1930s and ‘40s.

This is a film that addresses a deplorable, yet real aspect of history that must not be forgotten, especially because there are not many remaining Holocaust survivors left to tell their story.

Whether it was the wisdom of Curtis’ vision, the elegance of Mirren or the charismatic, genuine energy of Reynolds, this film sends an important message and deserves attention from all.